Mark Powell, who gives Monday Night Football some of the credit for making him a Bengals season ticket holder back in 2004, had to smile when asked his prediction for the Steelers game.
"My heart or my brain?" he asked.
Dick Rolfsen, who saw Cincinnati's first MNF game 40 years ago, summoned both to be at ESPN's Chalk Talk Luncheon at Music Hall. Rolfsen had a minor stroke Oct. 7, was in his Paul Brown Stadium seats Oct. 31 for the Miami game, and was in the crowd Monday getting warmed up for the game later that night with appearances by Bengals Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz and ESPN talent Mike Tirico, Michele Tafoya and Matt Millen.
ESPN also put together a panel of former players with running backs Ickey Woods and Rudi Johnson and quarterback Jeff Blake representing the Bengals and running back Jerome Bettis and quarterback Kordell Stewart for the Steelers.
"The Bengals and UK; wouldn't miss it," said Rolfsen, 79, of Crestview Hills, Ky., dining on Montgomery Inn fare after the program. "I enjoyed seeing the personalities on TV. It was almost like being there on the show. I thought the players would be a little more argumentative. But I enjoyed being able to see people you usually only see on TV."
Rolfsen represents the pluck of Bengaldom as it endures a bad start that has stunned them all, from the media to the masses. Powell, of Hamilton, Ohio, who works as a trainer for Cash America, represents all the football geeks.
"I never thought I'd say I'd miss work for a football game, but here I am," he said, standing in the chow line in the middle of the day. "I'm a sports geek, football geek, TV geek, whatever. I love it. I enjoyed it, but I wish that Tirico and Millen had broken it down more, instead of Millen just saying, 'it's defense.' This is a great idea to do something like this all day. Why not? How often are you on Monday night?"
Another Monday night has given him hope. He compares it to that first one in October of '04, when the Bengals were 1-4 and the Broncos were 5-1, and the Bengals knocked them off, 23-10.
'It's very familiar. I think it's the same kind of thing," Powell said."I think it's going to be tough for Pittsburgh. Their third straight on the road. That's hard."
This Monday night gets him thinking back to that first one and when he bought his tickets.
"It was pick your seat at the 2004 draft and I remember Eli Manning getting drafted on the big screen," Powell said. "One of the reasons I bought them was there was a Monday night game coming up. And it was Carson's first year. I thought it was something to build on."
Rolfsen, celebrating his 31st day since his stroke, still isn't quitting.
"We may have trouble beating them up there this year," he said, "but with the rivalry and the home crowd, it makes for a good night."