While it comes as no surprise, it was reported yesterday that Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is expected to be ready to start Week 1 of the 2021 regular season. The 2020 first-overall pick suffered a major knee injury 10 games into the season, including a torn ACL, but appears on track to make it back onto the field for the Bengals’ next game.
Though they only went 2-7-1 in the 10 games he started, CBS Sports commentator Adam Schein sees bigger things on the horizon for Cincinnati this year, and cited the drafting of Burrow’s teammate, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, as one of the reasons why. In fact, he thinks they’ll go further than at least one of their division rivals this year:
I’m telling you right now, the Bengals are gonna surprise some people. The can beat Minnesota. They can beat Jacksonville. They could beat Chicago depending upon the quarterback situation for the Bears. See who the quarterback is in Green Bay. They could certainly beat the Lions, could beat the Jets to start the season, and I’m gonna say it again: Cincinnati can win more games than the Pittsburgh Steelers, because they have a better quarterback. This is great news for the Cincinnati Bengals, and the NFL.
“I’m telling you right now, the Bengals are going to surprise some people… Cincinnati can win more games than the Pittsburgh Steelers because they have a better quarterback.” – @AdamSchein pic.twitter.com/bkvK4PWe6M
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) May 19, 2021
Cincinnati has recorded five consecutive losing seasons, going 6-25-1 over the course of the past two years under head coach Zac Taylor. Their 2-14 record in 2019 was bad enough to put them in position to draft Burrow the April before last, but it did not immediately turn their fortunes around.
The Bengals went 4-11-1 in 2020, while the Steelers went 12-4. Though if you really feel compelled to make a case, they did finish better than Pittsburgh. The Steelers went 1-4 in their final five games, while the Bengals went 2-3, which included a win over their division rivals after Burrow’s injury.
Of course, Burrow is supremely talented, and it’s not uncommon for great quarterbacks who are drafted on to bad teams to have a slow start to their career with respect to their win-loss record. The Bengals are adding talent and have invested heavily in free agency over the course of the last two offseasons.
And the Steelers are regressing, one can argue, losing a number of starters from last season, including two members of the secondary and three on the offensive line, without clear or at least equal replacements.
But can that really bridge an eight-win gap from one year to the next? Are the Bengals going to win more games and go 9-8, and the Steelers 8-9? Frankly, I wouldn’t put any money down on the idea of Cincinnati finishing this season with a better record than Pittsburgh.