Players from both teams have said as much in the last couple of days, giving insight into just how chippy, physical and intense their game at Paul Brown Stadium might be.
It all got us thinking: Will this game be more physical than most Steelers-Bengals games?
Although the rivalry always has an edge to it, there's something different this time around. Here's what ought to make this meeting extra physical:
So much on the line: Although there are players and coaches from both teams who have said this is just another game on their respective clubs' schedules, you have to know that deep down, there's something personal to this game for them. After all, four of the last six AFC North championships have been won by these two teams. Lately, they have to go directly through one another in order to get the division crown. This time is no different. If the Bengals win Sunday, they will claim their third division title in six seasons. The Steelers clearly have plans of spoiling that party with a win of their own, even if a Cincinnati loss still could earn it a playoff spot. Much like last year's regular-season finale at Pittsburgh, there's a lot on the line in this meeting.
Postgame chirping: It was after the teams' Nov. 1 contest when players from both squads took to Twitter, Instagram and even the old-fashioned news media to vent frustrations about their opponents. The Steelers weren't happy with the way Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict brought Le'Veon Bell to the ground on a hard tackling along their sideline, and then proceeded to celebrate while Bell was in need of immediate medical assistance. Burfict's actions drew the ire of Steelers players who spoke to reporters after the game. One, linebacker Vince Williams, even threatened retribution through Twitter. At the same time, the Bengals had grown angry with the Steelers after Pittsburgh safety (and Northern Kentucky native) Mike Mitchell speared Bengals receiver Marvin Jones on a hard, legal hit that broke up a reception Jones had just made. As Jones tried to catch his breath, Bengals players said Mitchell shouted to A.J. Green: "You're next." After Cincinnati's 16-10 win, Jones told ESPN Mitchell was "fake tough."
Pregame chirping: In addition to the postgame noise that followed last month's game, players from both teams have started opening their mouths this week. Only Steelers guard David DeCastro has gone on record saying both teams disliked one another, but a pair of Bengals outlined Wednesday how intense Sunday's game could be. Jones said it would be "bloody on both sides," while cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick used the term "village idiots" to describe Steelers players who lost composure and got dumb penalties in the game. The fact the two teams have resumed their chirping bodes well for the game's heightened physicality.
Vontaze Burfict is playing: The source of a lot of the Steelers' angst in the previous meeting, Burfict will be in uniform for this game, too. When he faced Pittsburgh last month, that was his first time playing since Week 8 of last season, when he suffered a serious knee injury. Although he missed a lot of action between those outings, he still clearly didn't forget how to play with the edge he's been known to have. His hit on Bell raised eyebrows on Pittsburgh's sideline, just as other teams have been similarly puzzled by his hits against their players. Burfict brings his defense an added attitude when he's on the field.