Cincinnati’s beloved Bengals have been the laughing stock of the NFL for years, and for many, as long as they can remember. The team has struggled to win meaningful games in the NFL since their inception into the league, including two Super Bowls. They have even earned a reputation for finding a way to falter in even the easiest of matchups and head to head bouts with division foes.
No losing record stings worse for the Bengals than the one they have against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Cincinnati’s wins over the black and gold are few and far between, with Pittsburgh owning the rivalry with a dominant record. Every time these two take the field, the Steelers find a way to manhandle the Bengals and send them home licking their wounds.
In 2011 when the Bengals drafted a rookie quarterback and wide receiver tandem, many in Cincinnati thought it would be much of the same in the Queen City. However what the rookies gave the city as the season drug on was hope. They broke records, got big wins, and promised the Bengals would erase their past.
Then the matchups came and went with the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was much of the same. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green could not lead their new team over their foes to the East. And when the team backed into the playoffs, they popped Bengals fans bubbles after they found themselves laying on the mat, down for the count. The Texans hit them with a quick, heavy hitting blow leaving fans and the NFL questioning their improvement.
Enter Cincinnati’s 2012 campaign. They opened up the season getting slapped in the face by their nemesis in Baltimore and then split a win and loss with fellow AFC North Cleveland Browns. When the Steelers came to town, it was much of the same. There were big hopes for the home town team, but they were quickly dashed as Pittsburgh showed the Bengals who was still in the charge in the division.
As round two approached, there was more on the line than the just their dignity. Both teams’ postseason dreams were on the line as the two took the field. Cincinnati fans were excited and hopeful, once again, for the showdown. However, deep in the back of their minds were the many losses that came before, courtesy of the team from Pittsburgh.
When Shaun Suisham kicked the ball on Sunday afternoon on Heinz Field, both cities were ready for a shootout for the ages. What they got was the exact opposite. Both quarterbacks struggled, putting up almost equal quarterback ratings at 58.8 for Dalton and 58.6 for Roethlisberger.
The game rested on the backs of the teams’ defenses. The Steelers and Bengals both turned the ball over three times to their opponents. Both quarterbacks threw two interceptions and each team lost a big fumble at critical points in the game.
In the end, though, a “Christmas Miracle” was left on the scoreboard. Cincinnati fans rejoiced as they got the best present of all this holiday season. Their team went on the road and did the unthinkable. The Bengals beat the Steelers 13-10. Not only did they beat the Steelers, they stole the game from them on another Ben Roethlisberger game ending interception that set up a Josh Brown 37-yard field goal that put Cincinnati in the lead.
The Bengals won and kicked the Steelers out of playoff contention. For the first time in 30 years, Cincinnati will take their best shot at another playoff run in consecutive years. For the first time, in a long time, the Bengals got the best of a Steelers team that always seems to be destined for a playoff run and AFC North dominance. For the first time, there is a new, believable hope in the Queen City.