"Every so often, just to remind the Bengals that he's more than a Sherman tank, (Bettis) would throw in a hip fake or
stutter step, but these feints were like a brooch on a hippo.
"For the most part, the man with the blue-collar nickname, the Bus, flat ran over people."
This segment of Austin Murphy's 1997 Sports Illustrated cover story centered on Jerome Bettis seemed to summarize Bettis' career against the Bengals.
The game Murphy was describing was Bettis' 101-yard effort in Pittsburgh's 20-3 win over the Bengals, the Steelers second victory over Cincinnati that season and the Bus' fourth straight 100-yard effort against Cincinnati. It was vintage Bettis, plowing over hapless defenders in snowy conditions while securing another gritty victory. Bettis was at the height of his powers that season, rushing for 1,665 yards while securing his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection.
In all, Bettis played the Bengals 20 times in his career as a Steeler. Pittsburgh went 14-6 in those games that included a 10-2 record from 2000-05 (note: Bettis did not play in Pittsburgh's Week 17 loss to Cincinnati in 2001). The Bus relished these match-ups against the Bengals, amassing 1,722 yards and 18 touchdowns on 408 carries.Bettis tallied 10 100-yard games that included nine 100-yard efforts in his first 12 games against Cincinnati.In his first four games against the Bengals as a Steeler, Bettis gained 456 yards on 108 carries with three touchdowns as Pittsburgh won three of the four games.
It was fitting that Bettis crossed the 10,000-yard career milestone against the Bengals on October 7, 2001. The Bus rumbled for 153 yards on that day-103 in the first half- as Pittsburgh prevailed, 16-7.
But my favorite Bettis memory against the Bengals came in Pittsburgh's 31-17 win over Cincinnati in the 2005 AFC Wild Card game. With the lead late in the ballgame, Bettis again mastered his role as the team's closer. He gained most of his 52 yards (on 10 carries) in the games closing moments that included a third quarter touchdown that put Pittsburgh ahead for good. Just as he had eight years earlier, Bettis was again who the Steelers turned to to finish off the Bengals to preserve victory.
Nine years later, the Steelers may have found another back of that caliber in Le'Veon Bell. The second year back steamrolled Cincinnati for 185 yards on 26 carries while adding 50 yards receiving and three total touchdowns. While their styles are different, both Bell and Bettis' abilities as running backs is similar in the sense that they have the ability to take over games. It's that quality that made Bettis and the Steelers so dangerous in the 90's and 00's, and it's what can make Bell and the Steelers so lethal now. Let's hope that Bell again mirrors Bettis' former dominance against Cincinnati this Sunday, bringing home another division championship in the process.