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Bengals need to bully Steelers


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Bengals need to bully Steelers

By Paul Daugherty pdaugherty@enquirer.com September 23, 2009

Keith Rivers is going rope-a-dope in front of his cubicle in the Bengals locker room, taking body blows from the heathen media. If Rivers talked like Eight-Five, the state cops would be locking down the Pennsylvania-Ohio border right now. Here's what the press scavengers want Rivers to say:

"I'm going to treat Hines Ward's head like a bad hotel pillow. He better not be slanting across the middle, 'less he wants me to go pinata on his butt. By 7:30 Sunday night, his dome's gonna be sunny-side up and his season's gonna be over, easy.''

Instead, Rivers says this: "It's over, it's done with. It's not about Hines Ward and Keith Rivers.''

He's right about that. Just because Ward jaw-jacked Rivers so severely last fall the NFL made a rule against doing it again doesn't mean Sunday is the rematch.

There is a score to settle, but not with Hines Ward. Ward's just the point man. He's who the Steelers are. He wears their mentality like a game face. The Bengals might not like him. But they need to be like him. Make sense?

The Steelers beat you up and steal your lunch money. The Cincinnati Bengals have gone lunch-less for years, from Ward to Greg Lloyd to Rod Woodson to Joey Porter to Kimo von AxMurderer. Football is a lot about intimidation, will-imposing, statement-making and all that seemingly childish stuff. Not in our house, baby.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore are very good at this; the Bengals have lagged. In the AFC North, those who forget the brass knuckles get pounded. It's time for the Bengals to put away the pocket protectors and play football. Or, as one poster to my blog noted, time to "try and erase a decade of locker stuffing, restroom swirlies and hallway wedgies.''

If that involves using Ward's ribcage for target practice, well hey, it is football. "The AFC North is dominated by physical defense,'' says Rivers. "If you want to be competitive, you've got to be'' physical.

The Bengals have lost their last seven to the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. That's not garden variety lunch-money muggery; it's breaking and entering and grand-theft piggybank. Put another way, Pittsburgh has made a nice living chumping the orange and black in Cincinnati. If the Ward hit on Rivers awakens the Bengals to what the Steelers have done to them here over the years, great.

Regardless, giving as good as they get is the only way the Bengals beat Pittsburgh.

The good news is, Cincinnati finally has a defense capable of inspiring cold sweat. Rising-star coordinator Mike Zimmer has rounded up a bunch of rejects and molded them into a group more suited to the temperament of the AFC North. They will hit you now.

The safeties are hammers. The rookie linebacker plays with a joy not seen here since another rookie, Odell Thurman. The pass-rushing end Antwan Odom has a ridiculous seven sacks in two games. Something is definitely going on.

Hines, meet Rey Rey. "I'm not going out of my way to hit him for something he did legally,'' Rey Maualuga says. "This locker room is going to go crazy the day of the game, but we have a ways to go before then.''

Obviously, you have to play smart, otherwise you're nothing but the Oakland Raiders. Overly emotional players seeking retribution don't play the sort of smart-ball good teams play. As Maualuga says of Rivers, his former college teammate, "If he plays with anger, he's going to make mistakes.''

We'd never advocate violence in the world's most violent team sport. But after Hines Ward and Kimo von TaxAuditor, we wouldn't mind seeing a few legal love taps to anyone concerned. Willie Anderson used to call this one a "manhood game.'' He didn't play 13 years for nothing.

Physical defenses control games. Attitude can win them. Big hits set tones. "Big hits go a long way'' says safety Chris Crocker. Pittsburgh's defense has bloodied Cincinnati's nose for a long time. It's time to counterpunch. That'd be true if Hines Ward were Richard Simmons.

That said, Sunday would be a fine, fine time to give Hines a tune up and take back the lunch money.


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I agree with this writing! They need to play physical, and they need to play smart. What was done last year was done and its not about getting Ward back, its about going out there and winning the game. So i hope all this is true and they forgot about that hit, and they just worry about being in the right places at the right time. This defense will need to come up big this weekend if they want to win, because it will be up to them to keep this game close.

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