Similarities exist, but Steelers-Bengals wild-card isn't exactly like last decade's

In this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016 file photo, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron looks to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Cincinnati.
In this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016 file photo, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron looks to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Cincinnati.
Photo by AP
Chris Adamski
| Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, 5:12 p.m.

A decade and a day have passed since the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals met in the playoffs.

That's long enough ago that just three players — all Steelers — have continuously remained with the same team since that meeting after the 2005 season.

That's long enough that those three — Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller and Greg Warren — this week said they can't recall much about that 31-17 Steelers win.

Really? Nothing?

“The one where Carson Palmer got hurt?” Warren asked.

“I know Carson was injured,” Miller said.

“Obviously,” Roethlisberger said, “the big news was Carson Palmer going out.”

A lot has changed over the past 10 years, but some things haven't.

The Bengals again will turn to a backup quarterback for the 8:15 p.m. Saturday kickoff at Paul Brown Stadium. And Cincinnati still is looking for its first postseason victory in a long time.

Steelers defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen's hit on Palmer during his first pass attempt of the game Jan. 8, 2006, brought in Jon Kitna for the Bengals.

Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt's interception of an Andy Dalton pass during the Bengals' first drive of the game four weeks ago has AJ McCarron starting now. Dalton broke his thumb attempting to tackle Tuitt early in a 33-20 Steelers victory.

The Steelers and Bengals met at Paul Brown Stadium after the 2005 season in that wild-card game as No. 6 and No. 3 seeds, respectively, and with the Bengals seeking their first postseason victory since the 1990 season.

Those scenarios exist today.

“We've been there before,” Lewis said. “It's time to right the ship. You know — exorcism.”

Cincinnati has lost all six of its playoff games under Lewis, including one in each of the past four seasons.

Those were with Dalton, who threw six interceptions and one touchdown pass in those games to earn a 57.8 passer rating that's roughly half of what he posted during this regular season (106.2).

McCarron had a 98.9 rating over his first three NFL starts during the past three weeks, with no interceptions. He tossed two interceptions against the Steelers in relief of Dalton last month.

“Anytime you get a young guy and you're able to get him in third-and-long and mix up the looks, I feel like we'll be able to have a lot of success,” Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats said.

The Bengals perhaps felt similarly in facing a then-23-year-old Roethlisberger a decade ago, but he responded with his first interception-free playoff game.

Today, Roethlisberger seems destined for the Hall of Fame, but it's McCarron who is playing mistake-free football entering the playoffs. Roethlisberger has had six interceptions over his past three games.

With the Steelers down to third-string running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (DeAngelo Williams is out with a foot injury), that's more pressure on a passing game that ranked third in the NFL.

The Steelers were No. 3 in the league in yards and tied for fourth in points. In other words, an offense-heavy team. That's in contrast to 2005, when it was the defense that ranked fourth in yards and third in points.

“There aren't too many parallels to then,” Warren said. “The only one I can feel is that this is a team that believes it can win no matter who it plays.

“This is a team that's not just happy to make the playoffs. This is a team that expects to make a run.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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