The Steelers' most intense rival is the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers had to get past the Ravens in hard-fought playoff games to reach their last two Super Bowls, and seven of the last nine games between the teams have been decided by three points.
However, the Steelers-Ravens rivalry only goes back to 1996, when the Ravens moved from Cleveland to Baltimore.
The Steelers' biggest traditional rival, and their closest one geographically, is the Cleveland Browns. Except for the Browns' hiatus from 1996 to 1998, the teams have played each other twice a year in the regular season since 1950.
Fans who watched the Steelers in the 1950s and 1960s might still seethe at the memory of the Browns winning 16 of the first 18 games between the teams.
Anyone who has come of age in the last decade, however, has laughed at the Browns too much to hate them. The Steelers have beaten the Browns in 23 of their last 26 meetings.
What about that other AFC North rival?
Between the vitriol of Steelers-Ravens and the history of Steelers-Browns, the Bengals get lost in the shuffle. Or perhaps their striped helmets serve as camouflage, and it makes them easy to overlook.
The TV networks aren't overlooking the Bengals, though. Both Steelers-Bengals games in 2013 are in prime time.
The Steelers go to Cincinnati for a Monday-night game on Sept. 16 in Week 2. Then in Week 15, the Bengals come to Pittsburgh for a Sunday-night affair on Dec. 15.
If ESPN and NBC can show the Bengals some prime-time love, it's about time Steelers fans show the Bengals some hate.
After all, the Bengals knocked the Steelers out of playoff contention with their 13-10 win at Heinz Field in Week 16 of the 2012 season.
If that's not enough of a reason to hate the Bengals, there are plenty more.
They Got James Harrison
Sure, this is business. The 35-year-old James Harrison, who had six sacks last season, was making $6.57 million and wouldn't accept a pay cut to stay with the Steelers.
So the Steelers cut him.
Joey Porter, Harrison's predecessor at outside linebacker, went to the Miami Dolphins in 2007. But that was the Dolphins. They haven't beaten the Steelers since 1998.
This is different. This is going to be the toughest thing for Steelers fans to stomach since seeing Rod Woodson in a Ravens uniform.
Harrison made perhaps the most memorable play in Super Bowl history when he returned Kurt Warner's pass 100 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII.
The man who gave the Steelers' defense its menacing persona is now a Bengal.
For the Bengals to dash the Steelers' playoff hopes and then get Harrison is like winning big in poker at someone's house and then raiding his fridge on the way out.
The Bengals have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 30 years. The franchise is heading in the right direction and presents the Steelers with a legitimate hurdle to winning the AFC North and getting to the playoffs.
It wasn't always that way.
The Steelers have won six Super Bowls. The Bengals lost both of their Super Bowls. The Steelers are 53-33 all-time against the Bengals.
How, then, can Steelers fans really hate the Bengals if they haven't been much of a problem for the Steelers historically?
The Steelers might dominate this rivalry, but there have been times when the Bengals have acted as the Steelers' bratty little brother.
The Bengals were 4-12 in 2010, but they damn near came back from a 20-point deficit against the Steelers on a Monday night in Cincinnati.
Trailing 27-7 in the fourth quarter, the Bengals pulled to within 27-21 and drove to the Steelers' 12-yard line with 40 seconds left before giving up the ball on downs.
Had the Steelers lost, it would have been the first time in franchise history that they blew a 20-point lead. It could have derailed what turned out to be a Super Bowl season.
The Steelers weren't so fortunate in 2001.
Not only did the lowly Bengals stun the Steelers at Cincinnati late in the season, they provided a blueprint for beating them that year.
The Bengals went into the game 4-10 and defeated the 12-2 Steelers 26-23 in overtime. The Steelers had leads of 14-0 in the second quarter and 23-10 in the fourth quarter, but Jon Kitna threw the ball 68 times as the Bengals came back and forced OT. One of the Bengals' touchdowns came on a botched snap on a field-goal attempt.
The Steelers finished 13-3 in 2001 and had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but porous pass defense and shoddy special teams were two weaknesses exposed by those pesky Bengals.
The New England Patriots exploited those flaws and upset the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.
The Bengals don't have to be bad to be a thorn in the Steelers' side.
Before hammering the last nail into their coffin in 2012, the Bengals were among the Steelers' antagonists in the two other seasons they missed the playoffs during the Ben Roethlisberger era.
The Bengals swept the Steelers in 2009 on their way to winning the AFC North.
In 2006, the Bengals defeated the Steelers at Pittsburgh in September. It turned out to be the only game against the Bengals that mattered to the Steelers that season. They did beat the Bengals in overtime in the season finale to keep them out of the playoffs, but by then, the Steelers were out of playoff contention.
If it weren't for the Bengals, the Steelers might be seeking their 10th straight playoff appearance in 2013.
Painful Childhood Memories
For the first 13 years of their existence, the Bengals' helmet logo was simply the word "BENGALS."
The striped helmets they wear today debuted in 1981. The Bengals defeated the Steelers 17-10 in Week 15 that year to clinch the AFC Central and end the Steelers' playoff chances.
The vision of the Bengals dancing around Three Rivers Stadium in those striped helmets is one of the haunting images of those depressing days in the early 1980s.
The glory days of the 1970s were over.
It was the second-straight year the Steelers missed the playoffs. Their run of eight straight playoff seasons ended in 1980, and those impish Bengals did their part to keep the Steelers home for Christmas (the regular season ended before Christmas in those days). The 6-10 Bengals beat the 9-7 Steelers twice by a total of three points.
The Bengals topped the Steelers in five of their six matchups from 1979 to 1981. They even pounded the Steelers 34-10 at Cincinnati during their 1979 championship season.
Losing to the 4-12 Bengals didn't prevent the 12-4 Steelers from going to the playoffs and winning their fourth Super Bowl. But history has glossed over the fact that the Bengals were 0-6, and the Steelers were 5-1 heading into that game.
It's like learning some deep, dark family secret—like grandpa used to cross-dress or something.
You need to fork over a ton of money to a shrink to get that image out of your head.
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