Over the years, the annual trip to Pittsburgh hasn't been kind or all that memorable for the Cincinnati Bengals. They'd either run into a relentless Steelers defense or get run over and picked apart by Pittsburgh's offense.
Not this year.
On Sunday, in front of a Heinz Field crowd that became quieter and quieter as the game went on, the Bengals flipped that recent history and utterly dominated the Steelers, 24-10, securing Cincinnati's first win in Pittsburgh since 2015 and the second road win of Zac Taylor's coaching career.
"This is something we needed," Taylor began when he took the podium for a post-game press conference. "But it's just a small step in our journey for the rest of the season. We expect to be on the road, win divisional games to achieve all the things that we talk about internally as a team. This is something that's necessary."
Energy and excitement reverberated from the Bengals locker room beneath Heinz Field, and if that noise didn't tell Sunday's story well enough, then the smile on Joe Burrow's face when he met with the media surely did.
"It felt great," said Burrow, who finished 14 of 18 for 172 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a game that didn't produce a ton of stress on the second-year quarterback. "First road win for me and division win for me so that's exciting."
Burrow looked the part Sunday. He worked the football downfield over the defense, dropped it underneath when it was necessary, and he even showed some elusiveness and confidence running despite last season's devastating knee injury.
Burrow wasn't sacked at all Sunday. The Bengals' offensive line, which had rookie Jackson Carman making his first career NFL start, kept their quarterback clean.
"They played really really well," Burrow said of his offensive line. "We had one guy come free on the first drive and after that, (offensive line coach) Frank (Pollack) got it fixed, those guys got it fixed. You gotta give credit to them. They're getting better and better each week."
Defensively, the Bengals were active and aggressive. Until late in the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh was forced into its hurry-up offense, the Steelers had only one successful drive all game – a 15-play, 86-yard drive that chewed more than eight minutes off the clock and tied the game 7-7 with 1:09 left in the first half.
Any momentum mustered by that drive was quickly reversed before the break by Burrow and the Bengals' offense.
Aided by a roughing the passer penalty, Burrow went to the air three times in the first half's final minute and connected on all three, and it was a 19-yard toss to Mike Thomas that set up a deep ball to Ja'Marr Chase.
Burrow led Chase perfectly into the corner of the end zone and Chase made an amazing 34-yard grab for his third touchdown catch in as many weeks.
"Ja'Marr came to me before that play and he was like 'Just throw it up to me, just throw it.' So I was like OK, I'll just throw it up and he went and got it," said Burrow.
With a 14-7 lead, the Bengals started the second half with possession and put together a 10-play drive that ended with a 43-yard field goal from Evan McPherson that extended the lead, 17-7.
On Pittsburgh's ensuing possession, Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson picked off Ben Roethlisberger for the second time Sunday, which set up Burrow for a 9-yard shot to Chase, who caught four passes for 65 yards and two scores, to give the Bengals a 24-7 lead.
The Bengals defense owned the first quarter, holding Pittsburgh to 16 yards of total offense, and it was the defense that sparked Cincinnati's offense.
On the second possession of the game, Burrow tried to fit a pass deep down the middle to Tyler Boyd, but the pass sailed a little high and was tipped into the arms of Pittsburgh's Terrell Edmunds for an interception, Burrow's fourth of the season.
With the Steelers set up at midfield, momentum on their side, Cincinnati's defense punched back. Defensive end Sam Hubbard got free and found Roethlisberger as he was throwing. The hit produced a weak pass that popped up in the air for Wilson's first interception.
The offense quickly paid off Wilson's interception with points.
Burrow went right to work in Pittsburgh territory and facing third-and-two, Burrow hit Tyler Boyd on a quick route underneath and Boyd did the rest, busting through Pittsburgh's defense and into the end zone for the first score of the game.
Taylor said the most meaningful part of Sunday's win was "our team’s ability to finish on the road. We’ve found ourselves in similar situations to that over the last three years and the mindset of our team right now is that nothing is going to be able to take that victory away from us and you saw it last week in a different way but this week our guys just finished. We needed our defense to be in a bend but not break mode in the end and they were."