A decade later, the AFC North champion Bengals have a shot at postseason payback. The resilient Steelers, meanwhile, are eyeing a familiar path to a frequent destination.
The Bengals were on the rise in 2005 when they hosted the Steelers in the wild-card round. Then Pittsburgh defensive tackle Kimo von Oelhoffen crashed into quarterback Carson Palmer's left leg in the first quarter, shredding Palmer's knee. Cincinnati struggled behind backup Jon Kitna and the Steelers rolled to a 31-17 victory on their way to a fifth Super Bowl title.
Cincinnati won the division with backup A.J. McCarron after Andy Dalton broke his right thumb in a home loss to Pittsburgh last month. McCarron is a respectable 2-1 in Dalton's absence, but he was three months old the last time the Bengals won a playoff game, a drought that turns 25 this month and includes six straight postseason losses. The Steelers haven't gone more than five years between playoff wins since Richard Nixon was president.
Pittsburgh has injury problems of its own with running back DeAngelo Williams nursing a sprained right ankle. The Steelers are already without star Le'Veon Bell, lost for the year after injuring his knee against Cincinnati in November. The injury stemmed from a hit by linebacker Vontaze Burfict that spurred a war of words with Steelers linebacker Vince Williams that spilled over into social media and pregame warmups last month.
The teams split in the regular season, with each winning on the road.