Ever since 1990, when Eric Davis and Barry Larkin led the Reds to a World Series victory over Oakland, the Cardinals and Steelers have acted like the proverbial older brothers towards the Reds and Bengals.
In that span, the Cardinals have appeared in three World Series while the Steelers have appeared in four Super Bowls, each franchise winning two titles. Meantime, only once has a Cincinnati team even reached the brink—that was in 1995, when the Atlanta Braves swept the Reds out of the NLCS.
In the past decade, both the Reds and Bengals have chosen to model themselves after the teams that have delivered the most grief and tasted the most success.
The Bengals hired Marvin Lewis as the head coach back in 2003—the same Marvin Lewis whose first paying job in NFL coaching was the linebackers coach for Pittsburgh back in 1992. The Steelers' philosophy has been ironclad defense and a tough, rugged running game, imposing overwhelming physicality on the opponent.
In the recent years under Lewis, Cincinnati now employs that same attitude on the football field. The change in belief and style has netted the Bengals two playoff appearances in the past three seasons, although Cincy has yet to win a playoff game under Lewis.
Meanwhile, much to the chagrin of Bengal fans, the Steelers have been to three Super Bowls since 2005, bringing the Lombardi Trophy home to Pittsburgh twice.
As for the Reds, owner Bob Castellini took note of the Cardinals' model of consistency (nine postseason appearances since 2000) and said, "Screw it, I'm just going to get their general manager." And then, in 2008, Walt Jocketty became the general manager of the Reds. It has paid immediate dividends, as Cincinnati won the NL Central in 2010 (the first time in fifteen years) and 2012.
Unfortunately for Cincy fans, the Reds were swept in the 2010 NLDS by Philadelphia (including the embarrassing feat of being no-hit by Roy Halladay in Game 1) and then blew a 2-0 lead to the Giants in 2012.
Meanwhile, much to the you-gotta-be-kidding-us vexation of Reds fans, St. Louis snuck into the playoffs in 2011 as the wild card and then went all the way, winning a dramatic World Series over the powerful Texas Rangers. And, if not for the incredible comeback by San Francisco in the NLCS, the Cardinals would probably have done the same exact thing in 2012.
Bottom line, both Cincinnati pro teams are spinning their wheels, trying to figure out how to climb to the top of the mountain where their respective nemeses sit confidently, if not cockily, and knock the Cardinals and Steelers off their perches.
So far, little bits of headway have been made, but unfortunately for Cincinnati fans, it is difficult to be patient—especially when the big brothers keep winning championships.