The Cincinnati Bengals had a statement win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The statement was short and sweet (opposite of how the Steelers must have felt about Week 12’s game, which was long and painful): Screw the haters.
Many had doubted how successful the Bengals franchise’s rebuilding efforts would be in 2021. One recovering quarterback and one first-round receiver does not a playoff team make, those doubters stubbornly declared to drive away the hype.
They were right, up until the point they were proved very, very wrong. That point may be Week 12’s dominant rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Good Morning Football’s Peter Schrager was among the NFL analysts who sang praises of this new-look Bengals team. In his spiel, Schrager counterargued everything people had to say about Cincinnati since March.
First: “The Bengals need to draft a tackle.”
No one in Cincinnati’s front office is clamoring for Penei Sewell right now.
This season, the Bengals’ O-line has actually been very impressive in protecting their star QB and facilitating the running game.
Those pointing fingers at the offensive line for indirectly causing Burrow’s interceptions in recent games haven’t been watching very closely. Against a strong Steelers defensive side, Burrow had plenty of time to throw and was sacked just two times.
Cincinnati Bengals seriously impress one NFL analyst after Week 12 rout of Steelers
Don’t let recency bias get in the way of seeing how improved this O-line has been.
Second: “The Bengals stink in free agency.”
As Schrager points out, many Bengals free agents stepped up in a huge way against Pittsburgh: ex-Steeler Mike Hilton had a pick-6, Eli Apple nabbed a pick, and Trey Hendrickson recorded a strip-sack.
Others may not have gotten on the stat sheet but proved their worth in other ways: Riley Reiff helped clot any bleeding on the O-line, Chidobe Awuzie made solid plays in the backfield alongside Hilton, and Larry Ogunjobi has been an absolute steal to help defend the interior.
Cincinnati shelled out plenty of dough to upgrade their roster this offseason, and it looks like it’s finally paying off.
Finally: “They’re the same Bengals.”
No, they’re not. Per Schrager’s enthusiastic appeals, Cincinnati looks vastly different now compared to last year.
They’re “dancing in the end zone and having fun,” and they gave their long-time division rivals a good spanking. What more could you ask for?
Schrager gives a final shout-out to Burrow, the free-agent signings, Zac Taylor, and the front office for slapping this all together in a relatively quick amount of time.
Cincinnati looks like a bonafide playoff competitor after 12 weeks of the season, but don’t just believe it because some NFL analyst says so. Believe it because it’s true.