Steelers vow to focus on beating Bengals, not extracurricular activities

Mark Kaboly
| Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

If you are expecting another social media war ...

If you are expecting another pregame scuffle ...

If you are expecting another play-to-the-edge-and-over-it type of game littered with fines when the Steelers and Bengals meet again Saturday in an AFC wild-card game — less than a month after all hell broke loose before, during and after the Steelers' 33-20 win at Paul Brown Stadium — think again.

“All the extra stuff, we are going to have to relax on that,” receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said Monday.

That probably would be a wise decision.

The Steelers sneaked into the playoffs with a win over the Browns and a Jets' loss to the Bills to get the AFC's No. 6 seed. The Steelers' playoff road includes back-to-back games against a pair of teams — the Bengals and Broncos — that they recently beat.

A favorable schedule — the Steelers wouldn't run into the Patriots until the AFC championship game — has the Steelers listed as the sixth-best odds by Bovada to win the Super Bowl.

Giving away an opportunity away because of an untimely penalty against the Bengals wouldn't be the wisest move.

“We will be as professional as we possibly can and play within the rules,” veteran safety Will Allen said. “Nobody wants to lose players for the playoffs and things of that nature, so I think guys will handle themselves in a good manner.”

That might be easier said than done.

There was plenty of drama leading up to the previous encounter surrounding Vontaze Burfict's reaction to a season-ending tackle he made on Le'Veon Bell.

Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster led the way after the game with comments about Burfict; Vince Williams chimed in on Twitter; Burfict responded; and Adam Jones went on a profanity-laced video tirade hours before the game.

Then, Burfict instigated a pregame scuffle in their December meeting, and 10 fines were doled out to eight players, totaling $147,000.

There's more.

Gilbert called Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry a “clown” and then later tweeted that all he wanted for Christmas was to play the Bengals in the playoffs because they were “chokers.”

Gilbert didn't back off those statements Sunday.

“I was praying for that. Dreams do come true,” Gilbert said.

Don't expect any Twitter wars this week and not much in the way of extracurricular activities during the game, even though each side will be tempted.

“It is very tough to have self control,” Allen said. “Crazy stuff is said on the field, but it is a matter of handling yourself with integrity but also having self control, understanding you have to keep your poise, understand that you are playing something bigger than just that altercation or somebody jawing at you.”

The Steelers did a pretty good job of that in-game during the previous meeting. Antonio Brown and Dre Kirkpatrick got into a swinging match three plays into the game, but there wasn't much in the way of penalties even though hefty fines followed.

The Steelers were penalized only four times and the Bengals five.

“It is AFC North ball, and we know how it is going to go down,” Foster said. “We need to go in there with the fight to win. There is no fuel there. It's just playing football.”

Even if there isn't much trash talk before the game, the mild-mannered Allen did toss one dart when referring to the lopsided rivalry as of late.

“It's been a rivalry for a long time, Will Allen said. “They beat us some times, and we've beaten them a lot.”

Allen's not lying. Since the turn of the century, the two teams have met 29 times with the Steelers winning 21.

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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