The Steelers open the season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Paycor Stadium, a key AFC North game right out of the gates.
"I think every game in this division has that feel to it," said Bengals coach Zac Taylor. "There's not added importance, because they're all important. Your easiest path to the playoffs is to be dominant in your division, so it starts Week 1 with a divisional team at home. We have to take advantage of those opportunities."
The Bengals are coming off an impressive season, winning the AFC and advancing to Super Bowl LVI, where they lost to the Los Angeles Rams. They have made some changes in the offseason, but also know they will have to adapt to changes the Steelers made as well.
"Obviously there is the element of unknowns," said Taylor. "They have new players, new coaches. They make tweaks to their scheme. You take that for granted early on that's going to happen and there are some things you are going to have to be ready for, to adjust that maybe you haven't seen on tape. Same with us. It goes both ways."
While the two teams prepare for the game, the Bengals weighed in on the Steelers overall, and also talked Minkah Fitzpatrick, George Pickens and more.
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Coach Zac Taylor on if it helps opening the season against a division rival:
"There is a lot of familiarity back and forth, from them to us, us to them. It doesn't change the unknown elements, what they might do differently, how they might use their personnel differently. Those are always going to be unknowns. We have a better feel for their personnel, and they have a better feel for our personnel because for the most part it's largely unchanged on both teams. Shoot, their staff has been there for a long time. Guys on our staff have been here for a long time. So, there is a lot of known elements there."
Quarterback Joe Burrow on the Steelers defense:
"They have one of the best front sevens in the league. They're going to get pressure on the quarterback. We're going to have a good game plan. I know the coaches are going to put the work in to help us and put us in positions to succeed. It's on us to go out and execute the game plan and the o-line is going to have a tough job. I'm going to have a tough job getting the ball out quickly and finding completions. That front is good."
Taylor on Minkah Fitzpatrick:
"Minkah is a great player. He has come in and done a great job taking the ball away immediately when he got to Pittsburgh. That's been his M.O. You can tell he has tremendous leadership qualities. They're able to do a lot of different things with him. Will that change this year, who knows, we'll find out. He's certainly a big piece of their defense. A guy that has been there now a number of years. They have a couple of guys that have been there a number of years. Their key component is their defense. They've been there. They know what their culture is about on defense. They've played at a high level and been a part of a lot of successful teams. I am sure that filters around to guys that are a little bit newer."
Burrow on if it helps opening against a team they are familiar with:
"Any time you play a divisional opponent you feel like you know what to expect. They might have some new wrinkles for us, the first game of the year. I'm sure they'll have a good game plan for us."
Burrow on playing an AFC North team:
"Any time you have a divisional game it counts as two in the standings. Any time you play the Steelers, Ravens or the Browns you know you're going to want to get that one."
Taylor on rookie receiver George Pickens:
"He was a tremendous player in college that we thought highly of. I know that he had a real good preseason, so we have to be ready for him."
Burrow on the revamped offensive line going against the Steelers defensive front:
"One of the best fronts in the league. A good test for us Week 1."
Taylor on what the Steelers offense will look like without Ben Roethlisberger:
"We'll have to find out when it comes down to it. He did a great job for a long time. It's strange to say that. I remember being in college when he was in college. He was a little older than me, not by much. He was a big part of what they did for a long time.
"They've had a guy (Mason Rudolph) in the system who has been in the quarterback room for a long time. They added a guy (Mitch Trubisky) who has been to the Pro Bowl and been successful. They added a first-round pick (Kenny Pickett) that they've seen play up close and personal for a long time. You have to feel confident they have done everything they can to put themselves in a good position there. I don't know what the offense is going to fully look like with those guys. I am sure there are some things they have withheld that we'll find out about on Sunday."