The Pittsburgh Steelers were a bit slow to get to Joe Burrow in their first taste of the rookie first-overall pick, the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. By the end of the first half, he was playing reasonably well overall, even without having converted on third down a single time, and putting up only seven points.
Overall, he went 16 for 25 in the first two quarters for 189 yards and a touchdown, and wide receiver (and fellow rookie) Tee Higgins was on the receiving end of the bulk of that, catching six passes on six targets for 102 yards and the touchdown. More than half of that came on a broken coverage play that went for 54.
After halftime? It was another story. Burrow would complete just five more passes in the game on 15 more attempts for just 24 yards. The Bengals were forced to go three and out three times in the second half, and by the final five minutes of the game had mustered just 43 yards of offense and two first downs.
“We’re in that game if I don’t suck in the second half”, Burrow told reporters after the game. He added, “I’m not going to suck like that very often. Considering that he was playing behind the Bengals’ number four and number five tackles, with neither starter nor primary backup able to play, it’s a wonder he even survived the game, truth be told.
“I missed throws. That’s all it came down to”, he summed up the loss. “You’re not going to be able to win football games against a team like the Steelers as good as they are when your quarterback plays like I did in the second half”.
Burrow rolled his ankle late in the first half, and there were certainly moments—particularly after hits—in the second half in which he was clearly favoring it. after one third-down stop, he speed-hopped off the field on his good ankle.
Asked after the game if he was feeling that ankle injury over the course of the second half, when his numbers clearly tanked, all he would say about that was, “it doesn’t matter”.
Even though the Steelers were able to make him look like a rookie in the second half, it’s hard not to like his poise and composure, and that way that he carries himself and talks about his performance. He really has the makings of a good one, unfortunate as that is for the Steelers’ future over the next couple of decades, assuming Cincinnati gives him what he needs to develop and succeed.