PITTSBURGH — While many Steelers players have stuck to the company “AFC North football” line when it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals, running back DeAngelo Williams isn’t afraid to verbalize the rivalry’s intensity.
Williams, fresh off a 143-yard, two-touchdown Week 1 performance that earned him AFC offensive player of the week honors, calls the Bengals-Steelers a “two-chin-strap game” because of the “hatred” between the teams.
Last year’s three matchups included more than $200,000 in player fines, multiple social media feuds and several concussions.
“Everybody knows the professional hatred we have for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Bengals have with us,” Williams said. “Everybody’s heard the Twitter fight and things of that nature that we’ve had in the offseason. 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.”
After spending nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Williams was surprised by the physicality attached to Bengals games. All he had heard about was the rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens. But after two games against Cincinnati, Williams said to himself, “Whoa, this is serious.”
During the offseason, Williams traded Twitter barbs with linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is serving a three-game suspension after a pattern of egregious hits, many of which were inflicted on the Steelers.
Although Williams agrees some of the helmet-to-helmet hits in the AFC wild-card game last season were too much, he said those who cry excessive force over Steelers-Bengals games “are not used to football.”
The Steelers have won 25 games against Cincinnati since 2000.
“If you talk to all the old guys that played football, it was way worse than this right here,” Williams said. “That’s why people came to love football. You don’t love hockey for the scores — you love hockey for the fights, right? Granted, this is not hockey and that’s not what I’m promoting here, fighting on the field, but you like it when two people generally really don’t like each other. You know you’re going to get the very best from both teams. And that’s what you’ll get Sunday.”
Some Steelers chose to downplay the rivalry, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger saying he was hoping for a “clean” game void of retaliation.
NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN’s Adam Caplan that officials will monitor Sunday’s matchup with heightened awareness.
Williams isn’t sure how the game will be officiated.
“You have to talk to Roger [Goodell] about that. We’re just going to show up,” Williams said.