The Pittsburgh Steelers’ AFC North division is now full of first-round quarterbacks, and the latest is perhaps the one that has come in with the most talent and ready to contribute the earliest, that being Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals.
To be truthful, the mere fact that he has managed to get them to a 2-5-1 record through this point of the season is really a testament to his own abilities, because overall, this is not a very talented roster, particularly in key areas such as the offensive line, and in the run game generally, which has been hard-hit by injuries.
Pittsburgh will get its first live taste of Burrow on Sunday at Heinz Field, and the defense has been watching him, studying him, and coming away impressed. Defensive captain Cameron Heyward in particular was fired up about what he has seen from the LSU product.
“I love his poise in the pocket”, he told reporters. “I love the way that he fights for extra yards on plays. He’s a competitor. You can sit up here and just say he’s a physical specimen, he can throw the ball, he’s a good leader, but he wants to win. I know their record doesn’t reflect that, but the dude comes out and competes every time he’s on the field”.
So far through his rookie season, Burrow has completed 221 of 330 pass attempts for 2272 yards. While he only has 11 touchdowns, he has five in his past two games, versus only five interceptions on the season, and his interception rate of just 1.5 percent is actually very healthy.
“I think Joe does a great job of getting the ball out of his hand quick, and if you watch the tape, he has great pocket savviness, the way he moves around and does things”, defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, and LSU alum, said. “It’s going to be on us to try and keep him in the pocket, but I think that’s the thing being a young quarterback, even though I think he has taken a lot of sacks, because I think in one game I think he threw the ball 72 times. But just his awareness in the pocket and try to keep the play alive”.
T.J. Watt, the Steelers’ other defensive captain, wasn’t shy about talking up the rookie quarterback and the challenge that he and the Bengals as a hole will present. “There’s phenomenal players on the other side of the ball every week, and to go up against a guy who won the Heisman a year ago and the first-overall pick will be a challenge for us”, he said. “He’s done some great things. We feel very confident with the guys that we have in our locker room and the game plan we have to defend him”.
The biggest reason that the Bengals have the record that they have is because the defense has been letting them down, and is giving up nearly 27 points per game, but Burrow’s side of the ball has produced at least 27 points in four of their last five games, so Pittsburgh certainly can’t allow itself to be caught sleeping in this one.