Now that the NFL has released the 2016 schedule, we now know that Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict will miss one the two games that his team will play against the Pittsburgh Steelers due him being suspended by the league.
While Burfict and the Bengals faithful probably see the league and the schedule-makers punishing Cincinnati twice by having the linebacker miss a game against the Steelers, Pittsburgh team president Art Rooney II doesn’t buy into that conspiracy theory.
“I doubt that,” said Rooney when asked if he thought that might be a little extra punishment for Burfict’s behavior during last year’s Wild Card game between the two teams “I’m sure the league wanted a game that would be an interesting game for us to open our season at home, and that certainly fits the bill in terms of renewing the rivalry with the Bengals early in the season.”
Had the league scheduled the Bengals first meeting against the Steelers for Week 4, you know there would have been several Pittsburgh fans crying foul, instead. In other words, the schedule-makers and the league were going to be questioned regardless of when they set the first meeting between these two AFC North rivals.
Burfict, who was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season for repeated violations of player-safety rules this past January, will also miss the Bengals opener against the New York Jets as well as the team’s Week 3 home opener against the Denver Broncos.
If anything, the Bengals will potentially catch a small break by playing the Steelers in Week 2 as Pittsburgh will be coming off of a short week due to their 2016 opener being played on a Monday night.
Burfict will have to wait quite a while to play the Steelers in 2016 as the Bengals second meeting against Pittsburgh won’t take place until Week 15. That game, however, will take place in Cincinnati and figures to have quite an impact on who ultimately wins the AFC North this season.
Including last year’s playoff game, the Steelers have won five of the last six meetings between the two teams.