Zac Taylor Prepping Squad To Play With Targets On Their Backs: ‘We’re Not Going To Surprise Anybody’ In 2022

One of the biggest challenges of finding success is the difficulty of maintaining it, and when it comes to something like competitive sports, things like expectations come into play. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been among the most successful teams in the NFL for decades, and so it’s common to hear, for example, Mike Tomlin talk about how he tells his players that every opponent circles the Steelers games on their calendars.

Nobody, except perhaps division rivals, really ever spent much time circling the dates that they were scheduled to play the Cincinnati Bengals. But that’s bound to be different this year as they enter the 2022 season as the defending AFC champions. And head coach Zac Taylor is well aware of it.

We know we’re not going to surprise anybody”, he told Geoff Hobson for the team’s website. “I can’t speak for other teams. I don’t know if we surprised them or not. I hope they saw a good team on tape in week one. But this year, certainly, I think people are more aware of the type of team we can be and we have to prove that”.

Even after drafting Joe Burrow first overall in 2020, the quarterback who had been regarded, along with Andrew Luck, as the safest prospects since Peyton Manning decades ago, the Bengals didn’t find immediate success. In fact, they went 2-13-1 in his first season.

It all clicked last year, though, or at least enough of it did to make a difference, allowing them to go 10-7 and claim the AFC North title by half a game, over the Steelers, whom they had beaten both times during the regular season, and in commanding fashion.

Pittsburgh had beaten the Bengals in 11 consecutive games going back to 2015 before the second matchup of the 2020 season, which began a three-game losing streak that threatens to expand to at least four this year. They claimed their first victory in the Steel City in six years in their September meeting with a 24-10 margin, and then blew the doors off at home in late November, 41-10.

The Bengals didn’t actually have some incredible regular season. After all, they did lose seven games. But they just kept winning when it mattered. They beat the Raiders in the wildcard round. They beat the Titans a week later, and then finally, they took down the Chiefs. They were a minute away from claiming a Lombardi before Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp happened.

In other words, they won’t be sneaking by anybody this year. They’re going to be the ones with the target on their backs. They are the ones with Burrow, with Ja’Marr Chase, with Joe Mixon, with Trey Hendrickson.

They think they’re going into this season with their eyes opened, prepared for everybody’s best. They’ll find out soon enough whether or not that’s actually true.

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