When Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah watched film of last Thursday’s game between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, it reminded him a little bit of some of the past matchups he’s been a part of with the Steelers, just in terms of the physicality.
Uzomah wasn’t speaking specifically about the late-game brawl that ensued when Myles Garrett hit Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with his own helmet, which Garrett had ripped off, but some of the penalties and drama that have been a part of the Bengals-Steelers rivalry in the past could be compared to the high emotions put on display Thursday throughout that game.
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Cincinnati is expecting, to a lesser degree, the same kind of intensity Sunday when the Bengals (0-10) host the Steelers (5-5) in another AFC North rivalry tilt at Paul Brown Stadium.
“I watched a little bit of it, and yeah, it’s a physical game so I don’t know to what extent it will be physically (Sunday), but I know every time we’ve played them since I’ve been here it’s always been just a grind,” Uzomah said. “That’s kind of what I’m expecting Sunday. …When we play each other, when we play anyone in our division that’s kind of what we expect. Not to that extent, but we’re expecting a brawl, we’re expecting a fight, we’re expecting 100 percent physicality on every play.”
As a result of that brawl, the Steelers will be without center Maurkice Pouncey, who kicked and punched Garrett after Rudolph had been struck and received a three-game suspension. The NFL suspended Garrett for the rest of the season – though the Browns’ defensive end was appealing that Wednesday and Rudolph is expected to be fined.
Rudolph told reporters in Pittsburgh on Wednesday that he “should’ve done a better job handling that situation” and keeping his composure. Uzomah was admittedly surprised by it all.
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“It was kind of crazy,” Uzomah said. “I’ve played against Myles for a while now, and he just seems like an awesome guy. I haven’t talked to him off the field, but he’s a physical beast but seems like a nice guy. … It was just insane because he seems a lot like Carl (Lawson) to me, a goofy kid.”
The Steelers have been on the receiving end of some injury-causing hits or tackles from the Bengals and vice versa, particularly in the days when they were fighting for playoff spots and most notably during the 2015 AFC Wild Card game.
Although the Bengals already have been eliminated from AFC North title contention, they don’t expect any less intense of a matchup Sunday. The Steelers remain in the playoff race having won four of their last five games (they lost to the Browns last Thursday), and Cincinnati desperately is grasping for its first win.
“I think it’s still they don’t like us, we don’t like them,” Uzomah said. “That’s how it has been and that’s how it always will be. I’m 100 percent positive of that. Regardless of records or what’s going on in anyone’s season, that still holds the same weight because we’re out there to physically maul each other and get the win.”
Running back Giovani Bernard said the desire to get a win gives even more meaning to this game.
“It’s always a physical game,” Bernard said. “Obviously it’s an AFC North opponent so that’s a big component of it. There’s always some type of standings that is involved with it, which makes it a little more magnitude or whatever it may be, but it’s an opportunity for us to get our first win, which we obviously want for the city and ourselves.”
Cincinnati lost the first matchup between the teams this season 27-3 in Pittsburgh, which was a bit of a lackluster game that coach Zac Taylor said left him with "a lot of regrets." Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium could feel like another away game for the Bengals, as the Steelers tend to draw well in Cincinnati and attendance has dropped for the home team during the past two years.
Fans of the opposing team have stood out even more during the 0-10 start, and now as the Bengals seek to avoid the franchise’s worst ever start, they likely will be playing in front of a lot of fans clad in black and yellow with Terrible Towels in hand. The Bengals hope to do what they can to silence the visiting crowd and give Cincinnati fans reason to return.
Taylor said left tackle Cordy Glenn could potentially make his season debut after a long battle back from a preseason concussion and internal disciplinary matter that led to a one-game suspension.
Steelers at Bengals, 1 p.m., WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7