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Steelers News: Despite what many believe, players are focused on the Bengals

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Bengals, and while most think they are overlooking their divisional rivals, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

While the shock waves of Mike Tomlin’s comments regarding the Week-15 game between the Steelers and Patriots still reverberate throughout the NFL world and Pittsburgh fan base, it’s safe to say the players are focused on the Bengals.

Several players already have openly commented on Tomlin’s remarks and how, despite what their head coach said, they’re focused on the Week-13 opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals.

And rightfully so. Despite the Steelers being 15-2 since 2002 in Cincinnati, the Bengals are a team that can do some damage, and I’m talking legitimate damage. It wasn’t too long ago when Vontaze Burfict single-handedly injured every member of the Killer B’s, excluding Chris Boswell. This could certainly happen again if players aren’t fully focused and prepared for the task at hand this Monday night.

The AFC North rivalries run deep, and if there’s one team to get the Steelers’ attention before a big matchup with New England, it would be the hated Bengals. Despite what many are suggesting, I don’t see the Steelers overlooking Cincinnati anytime soon.

Now it’s time to check in on the Black-and-gold news outside the walls of BTSC:

Ben Roethlisberger apparently doesn't visit the same zoo as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.

On his weekly radio segment Tuesday, Roethlisberger wanted no part of the “elephant in the room” Tomlin addressed Sunday night when he broke character and talked openly to NBC about the matchup against the New England Patriots in three weeks.

“Honestly, he's the head coach. He's allowed to think about whatever game or whatever elephant in the room or whatever matchup, things like that,” Roethlisberger told 93.7 FM. “For me, I am 100 percent on Cincinnati and nothing else.”

The Monday night game at Paul Brown Stadium pits the 9-2 Steelers, winners of six in a row, against the 5-6 Bengals, who have won back-to-back games to move onto the fringe of wild-card contention.

A loss to the Bengals would dampen the Steelers' chances of securing the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

“That's my biggest focus,” Roethlisberger said, “because these guys are going to come out to get us. They want to ruin our playoff chances.”

After the bye in Week 9, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin issued a challenge to his team to get more “ splash plays .”

It worked.

Unfortunately, it seems to have worked for his opponents, too.

Not only are the Steelers pulling off more big plays on both sides of the ball the last few games, they seem to be allowing them at an alarming rate as well.

As the Tribune-Review outlined , the Steelers have allowed eight passing plays of at least 40 yards during the last four games.

The Tribune-Review's Chris Adamski pointed out that only six other NFL teams have allowed more than that for the whole season.

“We've been having hiccups on defense in terms of giving up explosion plays,” said Tomlin at his weekly Tuesday press conference. “It's putting us in position where we could lose games.

“It needs to disappear. Yesterday.”

Everyone's mom has their favorite remedy for curing the hiccups. Mine always told me to pinch my nose, swallow a big gulp of air, then breathe it out slowly for 30 seconds.

It works. Try it sometime.

Tomlin is open to Martavis Bryant getting more chances as a kickoff returner, although he wasn't ready to commit to anything Tuesday.

Bryant, who hadn't returned kicks since college, returned the opening kickoff 38 yards and averaged 29 yards on two returns. The 38-yarder was a season best for the Steelers.

“We'll keep looking,” Tomlin said. “That opportunity was born out of injury to JuJu. He did some nice things, and we'll weigh those options when we look at who is available to us this week.”