The Ongoing Education of Bengals Rookie Cam Taylor-Britt – cleveland.com | Team Cansler

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Cam Taylor-Britt set the tone early for the Bengals with a 37-30 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett tossed in George Pickens hoping to avoid a three-and-off on their opening drive.

Britt had other plans.

He whipped Pickens to the ground after the receiver caught a short slant well past the tracks. Britt stood and gestured excitedly to his teammates as the hostile crowd at Acrisure Stadium let out a chill of jeering.

The rookie corner wore his emotions on his sleeve throughout the game as he came through with 12 tackles (nine solo) at team level, which was easily the Nebraska alum’s best performance of his young career.

“I’ll tell you the honest truth, I was very upset that I couldn’t play them the first time and we lost at home,” Britt told Cleveland.com. “So I just knew I wanted to come out here and play my best ball and help this team get the win.”

Britt missed most of the preseason with an abdominal injury that forced him to open the season on injured reserve. He could only watch from the sidelines as the Bengals threw a thrilling 23-20 overtime thriller against Pittsburgh in September.

He played a pivotal role in the AFC North rematch after being called up to the roster on October 8 and quickly moving up to the starting lineup in Week 7 against Atlanta.

The game against Pittsburgh was Britt’s third career start.

“I just felt like I was flying around the man, playing loose, finally getting the hang of it and playing freely,” Britt said.

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“We Are Really Here”

One of the highlights of the game for Britt was facing Pickens.

The two were drafted eight picks apart in the 2022 draft — Pickens was drafted with the 52nd pick overall and the Bengals nabbed Britt with the 60th pick — after playing high school football just 80 miles apart in Alabama .

The only time their paths crossed back then was for a spring game between Park Crossing and Hoover in 2018. They didn’t spend much time on the field opposite since Britt was playing quarterback at the time.

They have stayed in touch and shared a brief moment before kick-off on Sunday.

“It’s like, man, we’re really here in the NFL, it’s crazy,” Britt said, shaking her head. “Dreams come true.”

Pickens came into play with 29 catches for 370 yards (12.8 yards per catch) with one touchdown. The Steelers expressed a lot of confidence in the 6-foot-3, 201-pounder when they traded Chase Claypool before the deadline.

He leveled the score against Britt in the first quarter when he used a deep crossing pattern to make a 22-yard gain that helped set up a 42-yard field goal. Britt slipped on a cut to pick up Pickens after guiding Diontae Johnson to safety.

They clashed late in the second quarter when Pickens cleared the field with a dig-and-go route. Pickens was wide open behind all defense after Britt mistakenly broke cover.

It might have taken a toll on the rookie’s bravery if the game hadn’t failed on a couple of fronts – Pickett brought down Pickens and Pittsburgh were told to hold on beyond that.

“I honestly thought there would be more deep balls, he’s a good receiver,” Britt said. “I would say it was a good match.”

“It’s a New World”

The miscue against Pickens was just the latest chapter in Britt’s NFL study guide.

“It’s crazy that I learn something new in every game, I see something new in every game,” said Britt. “On this deep post I was supposed to be deep and I was like it wasn’t going to happen again. They almost got the touchdown, but the wind took the ball with it.”

It was veteran security expert Jessie Bates who told Britt what he should have done on this piece. Bates, who was closest to Pickens, sought out Britt as soon as the ball hit the ground and put his arm around him as he explained what the freshman had done wrong.

“Every snap for him is a new snap,” said Bengals defense coordinator Lou Anarumo. “It’s a new world.”

Britt credited the Vets for “keeping him straight” for the past few weeks alongside Anarumo, who had a similar teaching moment later in the game.

That happened when Britt was under cover against Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth just before halftime.

Pickett pocketed and threw to Freiermuth at the 28-yard line. Britt was able to tackle the 6-foot-5, 258-pounder but climbed high and had little success attempting to drag him to the ground.

The tight end added another 15 yards to the game before the Bengals tackled him.

“Everything is a wrap and roll for you,” Anarumo told him on the sidelines. “You’re a corner, you know, and that’s how we go about the rest of the night.”

He actually gave the “wrap and roll” advice to deploy two players later in coverage against Johnson on the Bengals touchline near midfield. Britt rolled him to the ground in a man cover where he had no help nearby.

If Johnson had broken free, he might even have gone for a touchdown.

The coaching staff generally praised Sunday’s game for how the “coachable” Britt took all the lessons he learned to heart to ensure any mistake he made was not repeated.

“We have really high standards for Cam,” said Bengals coach Zac Taylor. “It’s all about him. He loves to.”

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