Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Backseat Bengals Now First

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Backseat Bengals Now First

Article excerpt

It has been a Year of Celebration for the Steelers off the field. They honored Chuck Noll, who coached them to four Super Bowl victories. They retired Joe Greene's No. 75. They honored their first Super Bowl team on its 40th anniversary.

In Cincinnati, there have been no such ceremonies. If there were, the Bengals might want to throw an Almost Silver Anniversary party for their 1990 team. It is the last time they won a playoff game.

Yes, it has been 24 years since the Bengals beat the Houston Oilers, 41-14, in the first round of the 1990 playoffs. Since that game, Cincinnati is 0-6 in the playoffs, most recently its 27-10 upset loss Jan. 5 at home to San Diego.

Now, the Bengals are poised to win a second consecutive AFC North championship with basically a 1 1/2-game lead at 8-3-1 on the three other teams, including the Steelers, tied at 7-5. It would be the fourth time in a row Cincinnati makes the playoffs. The Bengals never made it three years in a row until now, and they missed the playoffs altogether for a 14-year stretch through the 2004 season, known as the Bungles Era.

This could be the year in Cincinnati, but its biggest stumbling blocks are the Steelers, whom the Bengals play twice in the final four games -- Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium and in the season finale at Heinz Field.

"Right now Cincinnati holds the big stick," said Steelers guard Ramon Foster. "Our job right now is going to be to take them over. We have two chances against them and we can't let that pass. I'm sure they're going to be trying to eliminate us and get the division this weekend. We've got to change that. We have to go in there with our head first and not look back."

After a rough patch in which they went 0-2-1 in the first three games of October, the Bengals have won five of their past six. This might be their best team since 2005, when they won the division but were upset at home by the Steelers in the first playoff game.

"Man, it was a powerhouse," Ike Taylor said of that Bengals team nearly a decade ago. "Looking at what we had and looking at their guys, it was like, man, we don't see it happening, we don't see Pittsburgh winning."

But the Steelers rubbed a little more in the Bengals' faces by proceeding to win their fifth Super Bowl that season and then added a sixth three years later. Cincinnati has reached two Super Bowls, both against San Francisco in the 1980s and both losses in close games.

Taylor thinks the Bengals are getting over what he called "the hump."

"I mean, they've been on the edge for the past three years. And they've been winning close games and they won three games on the road. That's key in the NFL when you start winning games on the road, then time and location doesn't matter.

"I think that was the hump they were trying to get over. At home, we all knew what they could do. Now on the road, man, they came along with three wins and they don't care if it's by one or four points. …

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