Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and quarterback Joe Burrow have yet to win in Pittsburgh together.
Taylor is 1-3 against the Steelers and his lone win over the Steelers came at Paul Brown Stadium on Dec. 23 when Burrow’s first year in the NFL was already over. The last time Cincinnati won in Pittsburgh was during the 2015 season.
A lot has changed with the Bengals since then. Burrow is the new face of the organization and none of his offensive skill players have started in a Steelers vs. Bengals matchup their team has won. Tight end C.J. Uzomah was on the roster when the Bengals last won in Pittsburgh, but it was his rookie season and he wasn’t a starter.
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The Bengals believe they have the team to contend in the AFC North and their mission starts to do so with a trip to Heinz Field on Sunday.
While Burrow has only played the Steelers once, he’s fully aware of the challenges their defense presents. In his first game facing the Steelers, Burrow was sacked four times, two of them coming from Pittsburgh’s All-Pro outside linebacker T.J. Watt.
“They have great players and great scheme to back it up, and they have, obviously, T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward,” Burrow said. “Now, they've got Melvin Ingram over there. We played him last year too. He's a really good player, so they got a lot of different guys that can create pressure from a lot of different ways.”
For the last three years, the Steelers ranked No. 1 in the NFL in sacks. They are one of the most talented and consistent defenses in the league year after year. Burrow and the Bengals might get some luck on their side and not have to face Watt at full-strength this time around as he’s dealing with a groin injury and was limited in practice on Wednesday. Cincinnati will surely be monitoring his status as the week goes.
Burrow and the Bengals are looking for a bounce-back performance offensively. After being sacked four times and taking nine hits against the Bears, the pressure is on the entire unit and coaching staff to ensure the Steelers’ defensive front doesn’t wreck the game.
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“We've just got to be better all around,” Burrow said. “I can be better, backs can be better, O-line can be better, receivers can be better, coaches can be better. We can all be better. That's what you try to do each week.”
If the Bengals are able to go on the road and put together a strong offensive performance and win in a hostile environment, it would be a statement to the rest of the NFL. Cincinnati’s front office invested heavily on several players in the offseason and as team president Mike Brown said heading into the season, “it’s Taylor’s team now.” His players are going on two years with the same offensive and defensive scheme and they’ve been building their roster knowing who they’ll have to face twice a year in the AFC North.
Will this be the year they put it all together and win at Pittsburgh?
“You’ve gotta just win games in this division,” Taylor said. “That’s one thing that we have got to do a better job of. It starts this week against Pittsburgh. Again, our guys are excited. This is an important one. It is Pittsburgh. It’s a divisional game. It’s a road game. We got a lot of work in front of us over these next four days to get ready.”