All Vonn Bell wanted to do was set the tone for the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that had lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 11 consecutive times (including the postseason). The Bengals safety had that opportunity in the first quarter against their AFC North rivals, planting Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster as he was coming across the middle of the field near midfield -- a microcosm of the Bengals' upset victory over the Steelers.
There was some added motivation toward hitting the Steelers wide receiver, who infamously dances on the opponent's midfield logo prior to road games.
"I seen 19," Bell said as he pointed out Smith-Schuster's number, per Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. "I'm not a boastful guy, man. I just go out there and let my play do the talking. It just happened that it comes to that. I'm just playing football, man. Just going out there and trying to make a play."
Bell made some headlines leading up to the game with a message to Smith-Schuster if he danced on the midfield logo, calling the act "disrespectful" and saying the Bengals defense "had to hit him and let him know where he stands."
That hit clearly sparked the Bengals defense, as they allowed just 17 points and 244 yards in Monday's win over Pittsburgh. The Steelers finished just 4 for 16 on third down and were held to 3.9 yards per play. The Bengals defense went the first 12 games allowing over 300 yards in each game. The last two games have been under 275 yards, a sign of their late-season improvement.
"I felt our defense was playing with a ton of energy," Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said. "They were getting guys on the ground, and I didn't see many missed tackles...Our guys controlled the energy."