The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are among football's most bitter rivals, but the NFL is reportedly taking steps to prevent any extracurricular activity between them.
According to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, a source said the NFL warned both teams against mixing it up prior to their AFC Wild Card clash Saturday night, although the league declined to comment. "NFL [executive] Troy Vincent sent short video yesterday to all playoff teams reminding on importance of sportsmanship and respect for the game," Freeman also noted.
Before the teams' Week 14 meeting, players had to be separated as they engaged in an on-field scuffle, and the NFL likely has no interest in something similar happening on a far bigger stage.
The issues between the Steelers and Bengals this season actually go far deeper than the Week 14 incident. In fact, they started in Week 8 when Steelers superstar running back Le'Veon Bell was lost for the year with a knee injury.
Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict applied the hit and appeared to celebrate, which rubbed many Steelers the wrong way, including guard Ramon Foster, per ESPN.com.
"He's that type of guy," Foster said. "That type of guy will get his sooner or later. ... If you've played against him, you know what I mean by it. He'll play it off, act dumb about it, but you don't run across the field acting hyped, celebrating, running up and down when a guy goes down like that."
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In addition, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones and Steelers offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert engaged in a war of words on social media, with Gilbert poking fun at Cincinnati's poor playoff track record, according to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler.
"All I want for Christmas is the Bengals. Would love to see them in the playoffs where they choke. The talking is done between the lines," Gilbert said in a since-deleted tweet.
Gilbert and the Steelers have gotten their wish after qualifying for the playoffs in Week 17 by virtue of a win over the Cleveland Browns as well as the New York Jets' loss to the Buffalo Bills.
There is bound to be some chippiness during Saturday's game since the two teams dislike each other and there is so much on the line, but the league is hoping to confine it to the game itself.
The officials figure to have a major challenge on their hands; however, both the Steelers and Bengals would be wise to keep their emotions in check rather than potentially risk a major blow such as a penalty at an inopportune time or an ejection in such a massive game.
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