PITTSBURGH – It's not enough to talk about changing the culture, something Zac Taylor started doing the moment he took over as Cincinnati Bengals head coach more than two years ago.
At some point, the platitudes need to turn into something far more tangible. Something like Sunday's 24-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, a victory that signaled Taylor's rebuilding project may finally be gaining traction.
Having Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase displaying their singular – and perhaps franchise-altering – chemistry helps.
The second-year quarterback and rookie wide receiver who were record-setting teammates while helping LSU to the 2019 national title, connected on a pair of touchdown passes as the Bengals (2-1) beat the Steelers (1-2) in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2015.
“We're starting to understand how to win,” Burrow said.
Against Pittsburgh, that meant keeping Burrow upright. It's something the Bengals failed miserably at during their previous visit to Heinz Field last November when Burrow was sacked four times in a blowout loss.
Minus outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, both nursing groin injuries, the Steelers not only saw their NFL-record streak of 75 straight games with a sack end. They failed to hit Burrow even once as he completed 14 of 18 passes for 172 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
“It just felt night and day,” Burrow said.
The Bengals controlled the line of scrimmage for long stretches.
They took down Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger four times, picked him off twice and hardly looked rattled when the Steelers picked up the pace while trying to unsuccessfully scramble out of a 17-point deficit.
“It's fun watching the other quarterback on his back,” Taylor said. “Our guys are relentless with pressure.”
Something that hasn't been a problem for anyone facing a Steelers offensive line that is suffering through highly visible growing pains.
When the group wasn't letting the Bengals wreak havoc in the Steelers backfield, they were committing drive-killing penalties.
All five Pittsburgh offensive line starters drew at least one flag before two of them – center Kendrick Green and right tackle Chuks Okorafor – left in the second half with injuries.
The game turned late in the first half after Pittsburgh put together a long touchdown drive to tie the score at 7 with 1:04 to go in the second quarter.
Chase noticed Steelers defensive back James Pierre was waiting too long to turn his hips and run whenever Chase went deep. Chase mentioned it to Burrow, and Burrow responded by lobbing a rainbow Chase hauled in for a 34-yard touchdown with 37 seconds to go before the break.
Burrow found Chase again for a 9-yard score midway through the third quarter.