Will Steelers-Bengals rivalry be hurt by new rules?
The NFL might be gradually outlawing big hits and rough play. But when it comes to the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, Ben Roethlisberger said the new rules might not apply.
“Some of the stuff that happens in that game, the rules were made for before that,” Roethlisberger said.
“It’s not about just the physicality of the football game to me,” the Steelers quarterback said about playing the Bengals. “It’s when it gets the extracurricular stuff that you wish would be cut out of it — and hope is cut out this time.”
The Steelers and Bengals have been division opponents for almost a half-century, but perhaps never before has the rivalry simmered as much as in recent years.
The most recent meeting featured 20 accepted penalties for 239 yards. Nine unsportsmanlike conduct/unnecessary roughness penalties were called, three players were fined and one was suspended. Also, three players left the 23-20 Steelers victory Dec. 4 because of concussions, two were carted off the field and four others left the game injured and did not return.
“It’s one of those games that can get chippy times. You hope it doesn’t,” Roethlisberger said. “You hope it’s just a good, hard-fought football game. But sometimes (it isn’t). So we will do our best to put all that in the past behind us and go play it like it’s a normal football game.”
Sunday’s meeting at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium figures to be the first start (and second game) of the season for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who served a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Burfict has been suspended or fined more than a dozen times by the NFL, including at least four of which for incidents against the Steelers. Burfict also ended Le’Veon Bell’s 2015 season for a hit in which Burfict was not disciplined but for which many Steelers players took offense. Three months later, Burfict injured Roethlisberger during a sack.
“I have said this to him on the football field: He is a phenomenal player,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s very smart, physical, can make all the plays, so you need to know where he is in that sense, yes, because of how good he is.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.