Updated: 9:30 p.m.
It was a crooning, happy locker room as the Bengals celebrated softly with the Sam Cooke ballad "It's Been a Long Time Coming" in the wake of Sunday's 23-20 comeback win over the Steelers that marked Marvin Lewis's first victory over Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium in his 100th game as Bengals head coach.
It was Cincinnati's first win over its arch-rivals in three years and three days and the first one at PBS since Dec. 30, 2001.
But there was a lot more than singing going on during a grinding, exasperating and improbable evening that also marked quarterback Carson Palmer's first fourth-quarter win since Oct. 21, 2007 and the eighth of his career as the Bengals erased deficits of 13-0 and 20-9.
"They were doing a lot of talking," said Bengals safety Chris Crocker of the Steelers. "It's OK. I'm sure they heard what I had to say when the clock struck zero."
Crocker said the loudest was wide receiver Hines Ward when the Steelers held the lead.
"He said, 'Same old Bengals. Same old Bengals. You all sorry,' " Crocker recounted. "We're not the same old Bengals. We're not. If you can't see that, you're blind. You know 86 runs his mouth. That's all right. I had a few words with him."
It was wide receiver Chad Ochocinco that said he put on the Cooke song, and Crocker had some words for him as he nodded to his locker.
"The game's not over until," he said, "you kiss the baby."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn't quite as verbose as Ward in his postgame media session as the Ohio native talked about his first pro loss in the state, where his record is 11-1.
"Six years (for me). Not bad," he said. "It's a tough loss for us. It was a tough, divisional fight. Stuff happens."
If the Bengals are trying to convince themselves they have changed their culture, this is the game to study because this is the kind of game the old Bengals lost.
They had no right to be in a game they trailed, 20-9, with 9:20 left after getting no yards in the first quarter, getting outgained by 220 yards in the first three quarters, missing an extra point on a high snap, and converting only 25 percent of their third downs. Steelers wide receiver Limas Sweed dropped a pass in the end zone and wide receiver Mike Wallace caught what should have been a 61-yard touchdown pass, but he bobbled it the Bengals 10 and the Steelers had to settle for a field goal.
But the Bengals manned up with big plays from virtually everybody up and down the roster, from $7 million man Laveranues Coles to a pickup in a May trade in Brian Leonard to a No. 1 pick in cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
Lewis has been saying it since March: He loves this team.
"Because they're a bunch of castoffs, you know," Lewis said. "They're grinders. They're football players, and that's the fun of it. Bringing together a group of guys that understands what a team is all about is enjoyable. Had we not won the football game, I would have went in there and said the same thing. Every time we enter this building, we leave better than we were. And if we keep doing that, then things will be good."
Crocker was all over the place with seven tackles and a pass defensed and late in the third quarter when he was in punt formation at the Bengals 38 on fourth-and-three he saw a look on the Steelers front and called his own number on a fake. Safety Chinedum Ndukwe sealed off the perimeter with a block and Crocker rambled for 21 yards. The Bengals ended up punting, but field position had been won.
"I've got the freedom to do that from Coach Lewis and Coach (special teams coach Darrin) Simmons," Crocker said. "They gave us the look it and it was there."
But if it was anybody who should have had something to say to Ward it was Bengals WILL linebacker Keith Rivers, the man whose jaw Ward broke last year with a controversial blindside block that led to a rule change.
Rivers ended up as the game's leading tackler with eight, not to mention the last word.
"Didn't say anything to him," Rivers said. "Everyone is talking about 'Kill him,' and 'Revenge,' but this is the best way to do it. Don't say anything and get the W."