Armour: Bengals-Steelers rematch a snooze

Nancy Armour
USA TODAY Sports
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Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams provided the scant excitement in Sunday's game.

PITTSBURGH — The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers must have used up all their fireworks last January.

There was no chippiness in Sunday’s rematch of the Wild West wild-card game, with a total of 10 penalties and nary a personal foul among them. No compelling football, either. One series aside, the teams spent most of the day trying to outbore each other.

Overthrown passes here. Balls off hands there. Barely any signs of Antonio Brown anywhere.

The Steelers won this one 24-16. But with the AFC North the early favorite for the NFL’s toughest division, both teams are going to have to do better than their sloppy, tedious play.

Except you, DeAngelo Williams. With 94 yards on a career-high 32 carries, you just keep doing you.

Already rivals because of their geography, the hostility between the Bengals and Steelers has become decidedly nasty in recent years. The NFL doled out more than $200,000 in fines just for their last two games last year — yes, you read that right — and the effects of the brutality in the wild-card game was still being felt Sunday.

The Bengals were without linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is serving a three-game suspension for his illegal hit that knocked Brown out of the playoff game. Tensions run so high that the NFL told officials to keep a close watch so things wouldn’t get out of hand — and made sure both teams knew it.

“Everybody knows the professional hatred we have for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Bengals have with us. Everybody’s heard the Twitter fights and things of that nature that we’ve had in the offseason,” Williams said earlier in the week.

"Guess what? This Sunday, that comes to a head, and the cameras will be watching. It will be our will versus their will, and we will see who breaks first.”

Not even close.

No one wants to see players trying to take each other’s heads off or see their season end because of a vicious hit. But whether it was because the teams were determined to be on their best behavior or because a rivalry game came so early in the season, this game felt like a balloon that had its air let out.

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