The Steelers take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Heinz Field, in a game that has been moved to a 4:25 p.m. start time to reach a national audience.
The two teams are more than familiar with each other, the AFC North foes playing twice a year. There might not be any player more familiar to Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis than William Gay. Harrison, who is in his 15th season in the league, played for the Bengals for one year in 2013, the rest of his career in black and gold.
Lewis laughed when asked if there is anything that Harrison does that surprises him.
“Not one bit,” said Lewis. “As with Ben (Roethlisberger), no one has seen James more than me. He has a tremendous spirit. I love him when he is not playing against us.”
And does Lewis think Harrison will play against the Bengals on Sunday?
“I expect to see him this week,” said Lewis.
Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton also weighed in on other Steelers’ players, as well as the team overall.
Lewis on the defense, which is ranked No. 3 overall in the NFL:
“As always they play very true to the core of the principles of spilling the football, getting the ball put where they want, let it come back to them, and block defenders. Guys run hard to the football, they apply pressure on the football. That is true of what is going on for well over 20 years.”
Dalton on Ryan Shazier:
“He’s really talented. Talking about speed, he’s a guy who has lots of speed. Plays hard. He’s one of the best linebackers in the league.”
Lewis on Shazier:
“He has evolved into the quarterback out there of the defense. He does a great job of not only getting guys lined up and put in right positions. You see him making the strength checks, flipping the pressures, doing all of the things he does. Flipping the coverages any time the offense moves, as well as playing his own tail off within his own responsibilities.”
Dalton on the speed of the defense:
“They play really fast. If you check the ball down, you see a bunch of guys running to the ball and going in to make the tackles. You definitely see their speed.”
Lewis on Le’Veon Bell:
“He is a fine, fine player. The only thing he had to do was not put up with any hits in the preseason. You see the guy, you know how talented he is, he has great vision, great ability to run behind his pads and continue to push the piles and do what he does.”
Lewis on offensive talent:
“Antonio (Brown) is a tremendous receiver outside. They balance the field with No. 10 (Martavis Bryant) on the outside. A lot of good weapons. Then one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League.”
Dalton on the new personnel on defense for the Steelers:
“There have been some guys that have been around, and some new guys playing. For us, we know the guys that have been there for a while. For what I feel like they do, they can just plug guys in, and obviously they are having the production statically, but I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage or a disadvantage. It’s hard to tell.”
Lewis on getting pass rush from some unexpected players, and so many areas:
“They mix and match. Keith (Butler) does a great job as they put their plan together and who’s going to be the rusher based on the particular pressure and changing them up. Right now (Vince) Williams is doing a great job rushing from that inside linebacker spot and winning his matchups. T.J. Watt’s gotten off to a great start. It’s just a matter of who is at the tip of the sword. When their number is called, they are producing. They are doing a great job with 20 sacks.”
Lewis on Joe Haden, who he has seen plenty of in the AFC North:
“He solidifies the back end. Joe is a great competitor. He plays the ball so well in the air and does a great job. He is not afraid. He plays around receivers. The key to being a great NFL corner is you have to be able to play, and run and become the receiver when the ball is in the air down the field and he does a great job with that.”
Dalton on the Steelers’ defense:
“They are sound at what they do. They’ve done a great job going against the pass, I think they are No. 1 in yards per gain. They are playing really sound defense and running the ball and making tackles when they need to.”
Lewis on if he sees improvement in the Steelers’ secondary:
“(They are) much better. Artie Burns is playing his tail off. The young kid from Maryland from last year (Sean Davis), he has done a great job, fitting in now. It gives the ability to move William Gay to different spots. They are doing a great job.”