CINCINNATI (AP) _ The Bengals players who led their playoff meltdown against the Steelers are trying to transfer the edgy rivalry to soccer.
Suspended linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones were among seven Bengals players who were honorary captains for FC Cincinnati’s game on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League. The game was played at the University of Cincinnati.
FC Cincinnati is in its first season and trying to establish a fan base. It decided to try to tap into the city’s biggest football rivalry as part of a promotion to draw 25,000 fans to Nippert Stadium on Saturday. The club had already sold more than 10,000 tickets.
The Bengals players were happy to oblige. Running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, punter Kevin Huber, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and defensive tackle Domata Peko also were honorary captains introduced on the field.
“Cincinnati and Pittsburgh is probably one of the nastiest rivalries in football,” Peko said. “Whenever we play Pittsburgh, everyone wants us to beat them. That’s how I feel when it comes to soccer.”
Burfict drew a three-game suspension after hitting Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in the head on an incomplete pass in the closing seconds of their first-round playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium last season. While players milled on the field as Brown was treated, Jones was penalized for bumping an official. The two penalties moved Pittsburgh in range for a field goal and an 18-16 victory.
The Bengals have lost five straight opening-round playoff games, an NFL record. They haven’t won in the postseason in 25 years.