Initial comments ...
"Obviously, with Monday Night Football and what the game means to us, we have to keep pushing forward. And the only way to keep pushing forward is to come up with the 'W' on Monday night. It's very important, it keeps us on track. It's a 'control our own destiny' kind of thing. We know the importance of it. We have to have a great week of preparation, and then exhibit it and play well on Monday evening."
This will be Andy Dalton's 14th start against the Steelers. What do they do against him defensively to make it difficult for him, or for the offense in general?
"Well, they've been pretty consistent on defense over that time. We have to be more consistent on offense. With that, we need to play better."
They seem to just 'do what they do' on defense. Is it one of those things where they just do it so well?
"They do it well. They continue to change it, and tinker with it, and make their revisions within their own scheme over time. They show you a different look than they showed the previous couple of weeks."
When you guys were drafting and scouting Carl Lawson, was there one person in the draft room in particular who was really high on him? Who was most responsible for drafting him?
"I don't know if anybody was the most responsible at all. Jacob (Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney) had spent time with him. Jim (Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett) had spent time with him there at Auburn. They both felt that he was a really good prospect. During the draft — in fact, that morning —Mike (Bengals president Mike Brown) asked me what my thoughts were (on Lawson), since he was still there. (He asked) if he would be a good addition for us, and if I saw him being able to handle the things that I was looking for. So, they all had an involvement."
Did Lawson's interview at the combine stand out to you?
"We didn't interview him … Well, I can't remember if we interviewed him with me or not. And I know, because to me, he's different than he seems. I would've had a different impression of him coming in the door, had I spent time with him. I can't remember whether he was part of the (interviews) for me or not."
What do you mean by 'different?'
"To me, he seems more introverted — quiet and introverted. But he's kind of the opposite of that. Once he gets going, you have to tone him down (laughs)."
He seems kind of wise …
"He's very studious of football, and very studious of a lot of things."
He seems mature, too …
"Yeah. With his personality, he comes off as being quieter that he really is. He's very studious, and he loves football, so that's good."
Is it fair to say that he's been better than you guys have expected?
"He's been what we expected. With his maturity, it's been good. I've been pleased with that. He just has to stay onside (laughs)."
He has a lot of moves and countermoves, like his Reggie White move with the speed-to-power. How hard is that …
"(Lawson) has been coaching you up on that, hasn't he (laughs)?"
How hard is it for a young guy to master something like that?
"That's part of (his game). He has spent a lot of time in pass rush and studying pass rushing. That's something he likes, and he takes to that. He studies those kinds of things, so it's something that's been part of his toolbox, which is good."
The Steelers' defense usually doesn't allow big plays, but the last three weeks they've allowed several long touchdown plays. Do you see anything in that, or is that a surprising thing to see?
"It's out of their character. They have some new people (in the secondary), and they're trying to get them all on the same page all the time."
Is hitting those plays something that has to happen in the scope of the offense, or is that something you can try to plot in certain spots?
"You have to stay on the field longer to get those opportunities. They had that one that they gave up on the first play of the second half to Tennessee, but usually they've been coming in the scope of drives."
This game features a couple of receivers, A.J. Green and Steelers WR Antonio Brown, who have great abilities, how valuable is that to an offense?
"A.J. is a big part of our offense. Antonio is a big part of their offense. They made similar catches on Sunday, with Antonio getting his feet down (in-bounds on a catch along the sideline), and the same with A.J. They're two special players. It's always great to have guys like that."
Do you ever just watch those guys and say, 'Wow'?
"Yeah, absolutely (laughs). There's a lot of stuff that A.J. (Green) does, and it's like, 'Man, there's not many people on this earth who can do that.'"
Is there anything that makes you sicker than hearing about primetime games?
"(Laughs) All we've got to do is win. That's all it comes down to. That's our goal."
Do you think that's a thing of the past?
"We don't think about it. Regardless of what time the game is, we've got to go out there and play and do what we can to win."
Is getting over the 'Steelers hump' a huge obstacle?
"Every time we play them, it's been a good game. It comes down to the fourth quarter. It's been tough games, hard-fought games. That's why we hear about it. They're a really good team. We've had our share of being on top in this division. That's why there's so much put into it, because obviously it's a divisional game too. There's a lot of importance surrounding it in this city, around this area when we play them. They're a good team. We've had some hard games against them."
The Steelers sometimes seem like they're trying to get into your heads, like when they mocked A.J. Green's fight with Jacksonville CB Jalen Ramsey, or when Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell said that Vontaze Burfict should be out of this league. How do you guys receive things like that?
"We can't worry about that stuff. You can see some of it, and some of the stuff I don't even know about. You can look for it all you want. You can't get that into it. You've just got to play your game."
How does that impact you?
"They can do what they want. I don't know what they are thinking, or what their reason is. It doesn't affect us."
When they do stuff like that, and with this being a divisional game, does that make you want to beat them more?
"We want to win. For us to get to where we want to be at the end of the year, this one is really important for us. We're playing a good team. To win this one would obviously mean a lot, just for where we are trying to go, but also to show what kind of team we are. We're facing a really good team."
The last three weeks, their defense has given up long touchdown passes. Is that something you guys see and want to take advantage of?
"When these teams have had their chances to hit these plays, they hit them. Obviously it's on the tape. That's what it comes down to — when you have those moments and have those plays called for those chances, you've got to make those plays, because they can change the outcome of the game."
How much can you scheme up those sorts of plays?
"It's part of it. Sometimes its stuff that's called, and sometimes it kind of happens. You don't know when it's going to happen, but when you get those chances you've got to hit them."
Is it as simple as execution, or is it something you look for more often?
"It's a little bit of both. We've made the plays, and we've had some big games in the last couple of weeks. We've just got to keep doing it."
What do they do well?
"They know what they're doing. They put guys in different spots, and they're always around the football. They try to take away the easy throws, the easy completions, and make you hold on to the ball a little longer. Things like that. So they've got different things that they do to try and disrupt your game."
How does Steelers LB Ryan Shazier's speed and activity impact what you do on offense?
"He makes plays all over the field. The big reason for that is his speed. You just have to be ready for it. That's what it comes down to — knowing what type of player he is and being able to (block) him."
In the last game, you guys got the ball back with a six-point lead in the fourth quarter after they scored and then proceeded to be pretty aggressive — for example, you threw on first down and had six passes on the drive. Was there a message being sent with that aggressiveness, rather than sitting on the lead and trying to run time off the clock.
"At that point in the game, we felt we still needed to score — not just work the clock, we still needed a drive to get down there and get points on the board. At that point, that's what we needed to do, and that's why we kept throwing it."
When he took over as offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor said he might see slight changes and new things as the year went along. Have you seen that at all?
"There's different things that we do (differently). Right at the beginning, it's hard to change everything. I think things could be a little different if he would have had the whole training camp, OTAs and the whole (offseason program). We've done some things that he likes, and there are things that have been successful for us."