This Day in '81: Bengals savor rout of Steelers


Cris Collinsworth

Each week from the bye on, Bengals.com plans to go down the stretch with the 1981 AFC champion Bengals to see what was happening in the newspapers on this date 30 years ago.

OCT. 20, 1981 — It was a Tuesday, a heady off day for the Bengals after what the papers were calling the greatest game in their 14-season history that Sunday. The Steelers didn't score until the last two minutes in a 34-7 victory at Riverfront Stadium as the Bengals took over sole possession of first place in the AFC Central at 5-2.

If you think the rivalry is heated now … Cincinnati Enquirer beat man Mike Dodd spent part of Monday following up on some bad feelings coming out of the Steelers locker room and on Tuesday morning reported that future Steelers Hall of Fame defensive lineman Joe Greene seethed over the Pittsburgh starting lineup not being introduced before the game for what he said was the third straight year in Cincinnati.

Greene called the Bengals "bush," and said it was low grade. Bengals general manager Paul Brown said the Steelers weren't at the tunnel entrance on time and said they should blame the TV people and not the Bengals.

Steelers head coach Chuck Noll, who played for Brown, gave his old coach a shot when he said unlike other teams the Bengals don't send anyone to the visitors locker room to tell them when the intros are ready.

"They've got the smallest staff in the league," Noll said. "The baby Bengal tiger is in charge of introductions."

But the time for gamesmanship was long past. The Bengals had more first downs, 25-10; yards, 494-205; and rushing yards, 164-65, and the NFL's No. 1 defense held Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, another future Hall of Famer, to 14-of-27 passing for 145 yards.

A stray note in the paper said that Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson had been named Player of the Week by Pro Football Weekly for his 346-yard effort on 16-of-28 passing with two touchdowns and no picks.

In his Tuesday notes package headlined by "No Monday blues for Coach Gregg,"  beat man Marty Williams of The Dayton Daily News noted the help Anderson got from wide receivers Isaac Curtis and rookie Cris Collinsworth.

"(They) gave Ken Anderson 68 of 346 yards through the air with incredible receptions. Curtis was going full speed when he reached out with his right hand only inches off the Astroturf, batted the ball toward his left hand, and then pulled it in for a 37-yard gain. Collinsworth made a diving catch for a 31-yard completion on a pass that had been deflected by Steeler J.T. Thomas."

The beat guys didn't have much to write because head coach Forrest Gregg told them he had a lighter than usual practice on Monday.

"Sometimes when you go through a film like that you sort of ease up on them," Gregg said. "They just performed so well we have very little to be critical about."

Over in The Cincinnati Post, beat man Michael Graham waited for Brown on Monday at his Riverfront Stadium office after he watched the game film at Spinney Field with the coaches. The 73-year-old founder of the franchise was delighted.

"Both offensively and defensively we had super conceived plans," Brown said. "Our pass offense, the calling of the plays, and the balance between running and throwing is becoming better each week."

Sometimes 30 years ago can seem like a millennium or right around the corner. Graham wanted to explore with Brown the club's lack of media exposure.

For the third straight year the Bengals weren't on Monday Night Football and the victory over the Steelers was the first time that season one of their victories had appeared on MNF's halftime highlights, the one barometer of national notice in the pre-cable era.

Brown, like Marvin Lewis after him, wasn't bothered at all and told Graham that Cincinnati was "a swell place to live … a big little city." He was, of course thinking about next Sunday's game at the 1-6 Saints.

"We're making progress, that's for sure," Brown said. "But when you get to the point when you're a favorite coming off a big win and you can maintain the intensity away from home and you do the job, that's when you're really getting to be somebody."

Thirty years ago or thirty hours? Lewis probably told his team something like that Tuesday morning.

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