On Sunday, the Steelers head into Paul Brown Stadium to face off against the Bengals in an AFC North divisional matchup. Surprising to many, Cincinnati is in first place in the division at this point of the season. Although the Bengals are exceeding expectations so far in 2018, this is not an unfamiliar place when facing the Steelers. In fact, Cincinnati has been the division leader during their matchups with Pittsburgh fairly often over the past several seasons.
This Sunday will be the 11th straight time either the Steelers or the Bengals are in first place in the AFC North at the time the two teams face off. One would have to go all the way back to Week 16 of the 2012 season for there not to be a division leader involved in a Steelers-Bengals game (the Ravens were sitting atop the North at 9–5). Of those 11 matchups, it was the Bengals in first place eight different times when they met the Steelers.
Before going on, there is something which needs clarification: there are two instances which may be misleading when it comes to divisional lead during Steelers-Bengals games. The first instance was when the Steelers were matched up against Cincinnati in Week 2 of 2016. The Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all entered the second week with a record of 1–0. Technically, the Bengals and Ravens were tied for the lead in the division because they had a better conference record. Cincinnati and Baltimore both defeated AFC opponents the previous week while the Steelers beat Washington on Monday night football to start the...