PITTSBURGH -- One of the nastiest rivalries in the NFL resumes Sunday when the Steelers play host to the Bengals at Heinz Field.
The Steelers and Bengals played three times last season, with the Steelers winning an AFC wild card playoff game in January. All three games produced some bad blood.
In the first game at Heinz Field in November, a Bengals victory, running back Le'Veon Bell was lost for the season with a knee injury after Vontaze Burfict tackled him from behind and then celebrated once he realized he was injured.
In the game at Cincinnati in December, Burfict was fined for an egregious late and low hit on Ben Roethlisberger that did not result in an injury.
And in the playoff game, Burfict knocked Antonio Brown from the game with a hit to his head that also prevented him from playing in the divisional round playoff game in Denver the next week.
Burfict led the way with questionable hits and fines, but he wasn't alone. Several of his teammates and several Steelers were penalized and subsequently fined for hits in the games.
The NFL dished out more than $100,000 in fines for the regular-season game in Cincinnati.
"What animosity?" defensive end Cam Heyward asked. "We got the (playoff) win last year. At the end of the day, that's all we're trying to do. We can care less about it if you want to talk about it."
Heyward respects the budding rivalry with the Bengals, but he doesn't believe it has surpassed the long-standing one the Steelers have with the Ravens.
"It's a very big rivalry," Heyward said. "I would say it's the second-biggest rivalry in the AFC North. It's a hard-hitting physical rivalry, one you have to respect. You have to bring your hard hat because you know it's going to be a game where you have to work."
The Steelers and Bengals enter the game with 1-0 records after Week 1. The Steelers beat the Redskins, 38-16, and the Bengals beat the Jets, 23-22.
The Steelers and Bengals have made a habit of beating one another on their home field in recent years. The Bengals beat the Steelers, 16-10, at Heinz Field last year and they've won three games in Pittsburgh since 2009.
"They're one of the best defenses in the league," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "It's a physical game, a mental game. It's just a really big challenge for us."
--Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton might not have ever won a playoff game, but he's shown the ability to beat the Steelers with some consistency since being drafted in 2011. He's beaten the Steelers three times since 2012, including twice at Heinz Field.
"He's able to dissect a defense before the ball is snapped," Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward said. "I think he just has some big-time players now. If they're running the ball then they can go deep to A.J. Green. If we can get them behind schedule, in some longer second and third downs, that's when we can take advantage."
Dalton only played one full game against the Steelers last season and that was the one game the Bengals won, 16-10. He left the regular-season game in Cincinnati early after he fractured his thumb early in the game and he missed the playoff game because the injury hadn't healed well enough.
--Several young players got their first taste, or extended taste, of the NFL in the opener against the Redskins. Eli Rogers made his NFL debut and caught six passes for 59 yards. Second-year receiver Sammie Coates, who had just one catch as a rookie, had two for 56 yards, and second-year tight end Jesse James had five receptions for 31 yards.
"It makes you feel good to make them feel good," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "Some of those guys got their first NFL experience. I have confidence in them and I think they have it in themselves. That's key and we just have to keep it moving forward."
The Steelers need their young players to continue to improve. Ladarius Green, who was signed in March to be the starting tight end, won't be eligible to return from the PUP list until after Week 6 and there is no indication he'll be able to play at that point. Starting receiver Markus Wheaton continues to deal with a shoulder injury that might limit his participation this week and in future weeks.
NOTES: LB Ryan Shazier, who injured his right knee in the fourth quarter of the Redskins game, did not practice Wednesday. ... DE Cam Heyward said his ankle felt "pretty good" after playing against the Redskins Monday night. Heyward played the game a little more than two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain. "Our main thing was the day after to see how I felt," Heyward said. "I felt pretty good." ... WR Markus Wheaton, who missed the Redskins game with a shoulder injury, was a full participant in practice Wednesday and said he feels much better than last week.