The Pittsburgh Steelers are proud owners of the league's most difficult schedule heading into 2015, and look no further than the most competitive division in the NFL as to a large reason why. The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Steelers all finished over .500 and round out to top 3 teams in the AFC North. The Bengals and Steelers rivalry might be lop-sided when analyzing the history of the two teams, but recently, the games are as good as they get.
2014: 10-5-1 (2nd Place AFC North), 3-3 within AFC North, 7-5 within the AFC.
2014 vs. the Steelers: 0-2
Pending Free Agents: G Clint Boling, QB Jason Campbell, TE Jermaine Gresham, LB Rey Maualuga, S Taylor Mays, OT Marshall Newhouse, CB Terence Newman, K Mike Nugent, RB Cedric Peerman, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, TE Alex Smith, WR Brandon Tate, OT Eric Winston, LB Emmanuel Lamur (RFA), DT Devon Still (RFA).
2015 NFL Draft: 21st Selection
The Cincinnati Bengals are a tough nut to crack when trying to figure out their situation heading into 2015. Behind QB Andy Dalton, the Bengals have continued to show flashes of brilliance in the regular season only to see massive frustration and failure as they have yet to win a playoff game under the tutelage of head coach Marvin Lewis.
It isn't as if the team lacks play makers. In fact, you could argue the complete opposite. A stellar offense anchored by All Pro WR A.J. Green, budding RBs like Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard and the up-and-down play of Dalton make for a team who can score points on nearly any defense.
Their defense is anchored by Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Rey Maulaluga and a back end experiencing above the line play by Adam Jones and Leon Hall at CB.
Both units show the experience and prowess to finally break through and advance in the AFC Playoffs, but in 2014 the Steelers dominated the late season series. In Week 14 the Steelers beat the Bengals in Cincinnati 42-21, and in Week 17 when the Bengals traveled to Heinz Field the Steelers won the game 21-17 and were crowned AFC North champions for the first time since 2010.
The Bengals were still able to claim a playoff spot and fell to the Indianapolis Colts 26-10 in the Wild Card round of the AFC playoffs. How far they go in 2015 will largely depend on how well they play within the AFC North. Beating the Steelers once would be a step in the right direction, but the players in black and gold might have something to say about that. This rivalry continues to build into must-watch television and will certainly continue to do so in 2015.