Quick, name the best, most heated rivalries in the NFL.
If Bengals/Steelers didn’t make your list, you made a mistake. Why? Because the Bengals and Steelers pretty much hate each other.
The Steelers have won the last three games in the series: a 33-20 win in Cincinnati last December (a game in which Andy Dalton broke his thumb), an 18-16 playoff win in Cincinnati this past January (a game in which Antonio Brown was concussed), and 24-16 in Pittsburgh this past Sunday (a game in which a bad call doomed Cincy’s comeback attempt).
All close games, all controversial for one reason or another.
Is it safe to say that the Bengals are the Steelers’ biggest rival?
“Well, I think the Bengals can be a rival,” Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Obviously (Vontaze) Burfict, when he’s out there, you know the competitive spirit he’s going to bring in pumping up the team, getting guys fired up and ready to play. But I think the Ravens are always our rival. Those guys bring a different level of competitiveness and hitting to the football field and to the game. But I think in the AFC North in general, every game we play is going to be intense. It’s a tough division and every team you play against is going to be competitive.”
Burfict, of course, is the Bengal responsible for Brown’s January concussion.
“I don’t hold it against him. I think some of my people do, though,” Brown said. “But I think as a football player – and as a marked man who catches a lot of passes and who goes out there on a week-to-week basis and has a lot of success – I think guys will always come after me or try to take shots or make sure they get an extra lick on me and get me out of the game. I think they’re going to try to just do a good job of competing hard against me to minimize my performance. But no, I don’t take it personal. Obviously it’s a football game and guys are going to try to hit me and do their job. As long as it’s not taken the wrong way or out of proportion in regards to playing football, I’m totally fine with it.”
Brown, considered by many to be the best receiver in football, restructured his contract this past offseason. The Steelers added $4 million to his 2016 salary, which is now $10.25 million – still a bargain for Brown’s production.
“Well, it’s always hard to go through trying to prove your value and trying to get everything you think you’re worth,” Brown said. “Obviously in the NFL it’s a production-based league. You can look at your production and look at other guys’ production and check (and see) what those guys are getting. You hear what you should be at and what you should be getting, and then you got to think about your loyalty to the team (and your reputation), and what’s more important to you? Going through those things, you got to remind yourself what’s important and not get caught up on what everyone else is saying, and that’s kind of what my focus was: to remain positive, control the things I can control, not let anyone else tell me about my production and what they think I should be getting, but me just doing the right thing and having the right talks with the right people who can get things done and doing it in the right way. Everything eventually took care of itself.”
Brown, 28, torched the Redskins to the tune of eight catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s 38-16 win in Week 1. Brown, however, wishes he would have gotten to compete against Josh Norman more than he did, as opposed to Bashaud Breeland, who was clearly overmatched.
“You want to compete against (Norman),” Brown said. “I just want to play football at a high level. I want to compete against all the guys who think they’re the best and who are labeled among the best – because that’s what you want to do. If you want to be great, you got to compete against the great players and you want to perform against those great players. So I wish we had a chance to be on the same side a lot more and just get after it.”
After torching Breeland for his second touchdown, Brown did a little twerking in the end zone – and was penalized and subsequently fined $9,115 by the league.
“Well, I got to be smart in regards to that,” Brown said, chuckling. “I never want to put my team in a bad predicament. Maybe I’ll keep (the twerking) to a minimum of two pumps instead of three.”