Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd is one of the most seasoned Steelers Week veterans in the locker room for his team.
He also hails from the Pittsburgh area and played college football there, so when he speaks on the hype for a particular Steelers Week, it tends to mean something.
And reporters astutely pointed out to Boyd that this Week 1 matchup will be the first time the heated rivals have opened the season against each other.
“That’s the only thing that’s new in my career,” Boyd said, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “It’s going to be huge. Any battle in the division is huge. But with that Steeler energy, it’s going to be a special day.”
Boyd also pointed out this will be the first time without a certain Big Ben in the fray.
“You look at Ben, he’s a Hall-of-Famer. Whenever you’re going against any Hall of Fame quarterback, you have to be dialed in,” Boyd said. “You have to take advantage of every drive because of what he can do on offense. They still have great players” said Boyd, well aware there’s a Pitt rookie in the wings even if it’s not on Sunday.
No Big Ben or not, the Bengals were always going to feel some added pressure going into Week 1 against the Steelers. It’s not just an all-important AFC North game — it’s a chance to remain the dominant force in the rivalry after years of struggling in it.
The differing state of the franchises right now, at least, would explain why the Bengals are big favorites.