It’s Bengals week. Storylines abound. Will Vontaze Burfict and his new contract live up (or down) to expectations? Will the Bengals miss Tyler Eifert, who is having surgery, is done for the season, and really ought to retire before he becomes the first Breakable Bionic Man, or will Tyler Kroft make him a distant memory? Will Joe Mixon, another of their Troubled Youth Rehabilitation projects, and who has wrested the starting job (legally) from Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, look more like Leonard Fournette or Kareem Hunt on Sunday in terms of his stat line vs. the Steelers defense? Will A.J. Green or Antonio Brown look like the best receiver in the league? And who will impact the game the most—Old Man Pacman Jones or Really Old Man Deebo Harrison? (Jones will almost certainly have more opportunities to do so, unless he is unable to play—see the Injury Report below.)
I’m guessing most of Steeler Nation is hoping for a Christmas miracle tomorrow, although I’m actually hoping the game won’t appear to require one. But that isn’t the Christmas miracle to which I was referring. No, this miracle has already happened.
Leading up to the Bengals game last week there was a tremendous amount of chatter about what was likely to transpire in the way of dirty play, fights, and possible injuries. Both head coaches assured the public that their guys were focused only on the game. After all, why wouldn’t they be? A Bengals loss would eliminate them from any possibility of making the playoffs. A Steelers loss wouldn’t do so, but would greatly complicate what appears to be the only path into the playoffs from the AFC North this season—winning the division.
by Ivan Cole
What were your hopes and fears going into this latest edition of Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati? Mine would include the following: A ‘trap game’ type vibe, the possibility of significant injuries to key players, chippyness, meltdowns and outright violence, and finally, black and orange tears along the Ohio River.
What we got with Pittsburgh’s 24-20 victory was all that and a lot more as, like some well-honed vaudeville act, Steelers v. Bengals gave a holiday presentation of some of their greatest hits, plus a few other goodies, as they struggled to an all too familiar conclusion along the banks of the Ohio.
Cincinnati Enquirer file photo
One of Hombre de Acero’s 5 Smoldering Questions yesterday boiled down to “Are you worried about this game?” My short answer was, more or less, yes. Here’s the long one…
Cincinnati has not been particularly good this season. As Mike Tomlin might say, they are what their record says they are. But why? This is a team who quite handily survived the late-season loss of Andy Dalton in 2015. They started a kid who was essentially a rookie instead—A.J. McCarron was their 2014 fourth-round pick, but he saw no game action whatsoever in 2014. Their only loss after the Week 14 game in which Andy Dalton’s thumb received an unfortunate introduction to Stephon Tuitt’s thigh was an overtime loss to the Broncos, in Denver.
Jeremy Fowler, the ESPN Steelers guy, wrote one of the sort of filler pieces we’re all having to come up with right about now, unless we write about the Panthers or the Broncos. Titled Steelers and Bengals Call a Truce, Sort Of, it details a friendly competition between DeAngelo Williams and Tyler Eifert to get signatures from military personnel on a Pro Bowl helmet.
I’ve linked it, but you aren’t going to find out much more by clicking on the link. I told you we are all desperate at the moment. Fowler ends with the following statement:
The reality is NFL players don’t really hate each other off the field, even when the Bengals and Steelers are testing that theory on the field. They see each other at events and training facilities like this all the time.
via The Big Lead
Before the Wild Card game I had a lot of respect for head coach Marvin Lewis and for the vast majority of their players. Despite Steeler fans jokes about the “criminal element” on the Bengals, there are a whole lot of good guys on the team, and a whole lot of talented players.
Now, I feel sorry for the good guys and talented players who play within the lines, as it were. Because what we’ve been hearing from the Bengals is a whole litany of excuses as to why they lost a game they probably should have won, although even that has a caveat attached.
by Homer J.
This mysterious document appeared in my inbox yesterday afternoon. It looked important to me, and I thought you all should see it.
CONFIDENTIAL LEGAL MEMORANDUM TO ROGER GOODELL IN RE: VONTAZE BURFICT
The National Football League has retained the firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe to provide legal advice in the personnel matter of NFL v Vontaze DeLeon Burfict, Jr.
Burfict, an employee of the Cincinnati Football Team of the NFL struck Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Football Team of the NFL with a hit deemed illegal at the time by officials, rendering Brown unconscious, concussing him, and possibly causing irreversible brain damage. The issue here is the NFL’s response, and whether fines or suspensions are warranted. Above all, what options are in the best interests of the client? Read more