Love him or hate him, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark usually keeps things interesting.
According to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Steelers beat reporter Alan Robinson, Clark told Cincinnati reporters on a Thursday conference call that the Bengals, who visit Heinz Field on Sunday night, don’t give the Steelers their perceived due when the two AFC North rivals get together.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati,” Clark said. “I don’t think they necessarily understand the history, or know the history, nor care about it.”
As Robinson reminds us, maybe that’s because the Bengals are finally beating the Steelers. Cincinnati has won two in a row in the series after dropping five straight and 20 of 26 dating back to the turn of the century. The Bengals aren’t going to play a deferential role when they feel they’ve turned the tables on their nemesis – not that you expect pro athletes to ever do such a thing.
In the end, it’s almost a nonsensical statement to make, until Clark added that the Bengals’ outward hostility toward the Steelers is “exciting.”
“It’s always good to play against good players who feel like they’re better than you,” Clark said. “It makes for a good game for both teams.”
So, uh, OK. That’s what I get for trying to ascribe deeper meaning to what’s just a motivational tactic for Clark and his teammates, who at 5-8 will be trying to keep the Bengals from clinching the division in Pittsburgh. The Steelers will also be looking to avoid their second losing streak of three or more games this season.
If the Ravens (7-6) lose in Detroit earlier in the day, Cincinnati (9-4) will need one more victory to put a bow on the AFC North for the second time in five seasons. The Bengals are also seeking to lock up their third straight playoff appearance, something they’ve never accomplished in 46 years of existence.
Since Cincinnati has plenty to play for, maybe the Steelers can take a cue from their loudest player and ratchet up the intensity for what could be Pittsburgh’s last semi-meaningful game until next September.