Hey, Marvin, if I had told you eight weeks ago that your Cincinnati Bengals would be 6-2, what would you have said?
"I'd have been disappointed."
Why, do you think you should be 8-0?
"Well, that's what we're playing for, right?"
That's right. Playing to win, the story of the 2011 Cincinnati Bengals, coached by Marvin Lewis, the man with nine lives.
Lewis is a Pittsburgh area native who before jumping on and off the hot seat in Cincinnati coached linebackers under Bill Cowher. He feels comfortable enough to joke around with the locals, but the aforementioned transcript was no joke with the Pittsburgh media, who really only wanted to ask this question:
Who are these 6-2 Cincinnati Bengals?
Ben Roethlisberger has some answers.
"I think a lot of people kind of doubted them because of Carson," Roethlisberger said of the off-season "retirement" of quarterback Carson Palmer.
Because of Palmer's refusal to play one more snap with what last year was a 4-12 team, he "retired" and forced the Bengals to draft quarterback Andy Dalton in the second round.
A four-year starter at TCU, Dalton's won-loss record of 42-7 has carried over with the tied-for-first Bengals.
"Dalton's come in and done a great job," Roethlisberger said. "I thought he was one of the better quarterbacks coming out last year and he's done a great job of making plays. And their defense is just really good. They've revamped it and are doing a lot of things."
In his fourth season as defensive coordinator, Mike Zimmer has the Bengals ranked fourth overall and first in stopping the run, per carry, at a 3.3 yards-allowed average.
"He's got an innate knack or play-calling," said Lewis. "He puts our guys in position to win the down, and he makes sure they have the knowledge of what they and the other team are doing. You go into our meetings and you see everybody taking notes like it's a trigonometry class."
Well, apparently dey a rookie quarterback and his trig class.
But of course there's more.
The Bengals' offensive line has been bolstered this season by the maturing of right tackle Andre Smith, the sixth pick of the 2009 draft. The group has been intact ever since RG Bobbie Williams returned from suspension in the fifth week of the season. They've allowed only 13 sacks this season, or twice as few as have the Steelers.
Dalton's deep threat is this year's prize rookie, A.J. Green, the fourth pick of the draft who leads the Bengals with 40 catches, 599 yards and 5 touchdowns.
"We saw his talent early on in training camp," said Dalton. "He was going up and making catches that were unbelievable."
"He a beast, freakish," said Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, who'll likely be assigned to shadow the 6-4, 207-pounder.
The other freakish beast of the Bengals' offense is last year's No. 1 pick, 6-5, 260-pound tight end Jermaine Gresham, who's missed the last two games with a hamstring strain.
He's hoping to return Sunday to take part in the "Who Dey?" celebration that's otherwise known as "Steelers Week" in Cincinnati.
"I think it would be great to be 7-2," said Dalton. "Everybody is excited. The game is sold out. There are just a lot of people excited for this."