The Steelers will end their win-less streak this week with a victory over the Bengals at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football.
That is a certainty.
I gotta tell ya’, though, as a fan who has accepted the occasional free ticket to a game since the 1980s, that’s a little insulting. If you’ll remember, it was the Bengals who were the victims the last time the Steelers actually won a game, which was Week 17 of the 2018 regular season.
Not only is that a little insulting, it’s quite underwhelming, this new habit of only winning games against the one team everyone already knows you’re going to beat before the season even starts. This means I have to wait at least six more days to potentially gain some real satisfaction from a Steelers victory when the Ravens roll into town for a Week 5 showdown on October 6.
Now I know what it feels like when some college football team gets its first win of the year against Coastal Carolina...or whomever.
No, a three or four-touchdown victory over Cincinnati won’t cure what ails me right now as a fan. I mean, let’s face it, if the Steelers don’t quickly get their act together, the two victories over the Bengals will be the only ones they’ll actually have to show for their 2019 campaign.
And that brings me to what I’ll be looking for in this inevitable victory on Monday night, and that’s the coming out party for second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph.
After all, if the Steelers are going to earn some real wins over teams this year, they’ll need Rudolph to really step it up and show he was deserving of that first-round grade the Steelers placed on him prior to the 2018 NFL Draft.
I’m confident Rudolph will take the six quarters of experience he’s already gained this season and make a real leap against the Bengals on Monday. Why? These kinds of things happen to teams like the Bengals. NFL history has shown us this over and over again.
Who are the Bengals, but one of those hapless franchises that are always being victimized in NFL Films highlights by real teams like the Steelers, Cowboys, 49ers and Raiders.
Ever watch one of those NFL Films shows from the 1970s that featured the stars or teams of the day wreaking havoc? It seemed like the Bengals were always on the receiving end of some beat-down. There would be quarterback Ken Anderson, in his Paul Brown vendetta against the Cleveland Browns ‘70s era uniform (“Forget the jungle cat stripes, just slap “Bengals” on the side of the helmets. They’ll never notice.”) getting sacked by Joe Greene or Randy White.
Forty years from now, when my grandchildren are watching an NFL Films show about Rudolph’s career, I can just see him talking about how it all began way back in 2019 against the Bengals on Monday Night Football. I can just hear the classic NFL Films music playing in the background as one Mason bomb after another fills the screen of whatever type of device my grandchildren will be using to watch old football highlights from the 2010s. I can just see those helpless Bengals defensive backs chasing the Steelers receivers into the end zone time and time again as Laurence Fishburne paints a fantastic picture with his narration (he’s actually done some NFL Films voice-over work, and he should be the new John Facenda).
More immediately, I can just picture social media on Tuesday morning and all of those Bengals fans lamenting the fact that some kid named Rudolph torched their team’s secondary. Too bad, Bengals fans. If Steelers fans have to deal with nobodies like Chris Hogan putting something on their team, you have to deal with the young quarterback from your long-time tormentor coming up big against your defense.
You can mark it down: Mason Rudolph will have his official coming out party against the Bengals on Monday Night Football.
Why? Because, if NFL history tells us one thing, aside from the Ickey Shuffle, great stories aren’t created by the Bengals, they’re created against them.