As usual, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow got off a few good one-liners in Wednesday's news conference looking ahead to Sunday's game (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 120) in Pittsburgh.
"I'm not going to throw four interceptions," Burrow said with a face straighter than a Ja'Marr Chase go route. "That's an outlier for me. So, that's my plan going in."
It will be recalled in the season opener at Paycor against the Steelers, Burrow threw four interceptions in the still unfathomable 23-20 overtime loss. Look at what he's done since with 16 touchdowns, two interceptions, a passer rating of 110.4 and a completion percentage of 71.4, which would be good for second place in the NFL in both rating and completion percentage. As it is, his 102.6 is good for fifth and his 70 percent is good for third. And his per attempt is 7.8 since then, 7.6 if you include the opener.
And, no, both Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor say his July 26 appendectomy had nothing to do with the four picks.
"One of them was a fourth down trying to fit into a tight window. One of them was a D end picking it off. One was Minkah (Fitzpatrick) making a great play, the second play of the season," Taylor said. "That's what you deal with Week 1 of the season. What are the changes that you're going to see and how they play things? None of that goes into the appendectomy."
Burrow says there's only one difference from Sunday and Sept. 11.
"Just healthier," Burrow said. "I'm not coming off an appendix surgery. I'm just going to be smarter with the ball … I don't wish I took another week (off). I was healthy enough to go out there and play. I just didn't play the way that I needed to win that game. "
_One of those interceptions came at the hands of Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt, the defending Defensive Player of the Year. It was one of those improbable leapers at the line of scrimmage that doesn't take brain surgery to known an appendectomy was no factor on that.
"You've got to get the ball out quickly but he's probably the only guy in the league that you do have to worry about when you do get the ball out quickly," Burrow said. "He's good at reading the quarterback's drop through the tackles and understanding when you are trying to throw the ball quickly. You saw in the first game he got an interception just off reading my feet and getting his hands up in the passing lanes."
_Both head coaches are optimistic they'll get back a defensive stud Sunday.
Taylor says nose tackle D.J. Reader (knee) looks good and Mike Tomlin told Steelers media that Fitzpatrick has a shot at playing despite reports he'd miss multiple weeks after undergoing an appendectomy four days ago.
"(Reader) been doing rehab work over the past couple of weeks and has felt really good, so we were optimistic going into this week," Taylor said. "I anticipate a positive week from him."
Fitzpatrick was on the sidelines helping the Steelers defensive backs Sunday a day after surgery
Burrow was asked what advice he'd give him.
"Maybe wait just an extra week," Burrow said with a laugh.
Bengals kick returner/running back Chris Evans (knee) went limited and safety Dax Hill (shoulder) was out. Taylor ruled out nose tackle Josh Tupou (calf) this game, calling him "week-to-week." No sign of wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (hip).
"We'll just see how the week goes," Taylor said.
He said basically the same thing about the punting situations as he mulls replacing all-time Bengals punter Kevin Huber with Drue Chrisman's NFL debut.
Slot cornerback Mike Hilton, who had surgery on his pinkie two weeks ago, went full Wednesday and said catching a ball is easy compared to tackling. But he says he can do that, too, and he'll do it with a soft splint that allows him to have the use of the other four fingers.
_Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. But Wednesday's first snow squall since the Bengals opened the IEL Indoor Facility found them outside on the practice fields. With temperatures predicted to dip into the 20s Sunday in Pittsburgh, it was predictable. Taylor did take them indoors for the late morning walk-through.
"There's a balance there, we'll just take it day-to-day and make the best decisions for our team," Taylor said. "In one area that it does help you is in your walk-throughs that we've traditionally done outside regardless of the conditions.
"Then day-to-day there's going to be times you want to be inside and want good crisp practice and there's going to be time when you want to work in the elements. I won't give you guys much lead time on what it's going to be each day, but those are decisions we'll make day-to-day."
But the Bengals are an AFC North team and if they're not a cold-weather team, they spoke it into existence Wednesday.
"All of our (offensive) linemen, when they hear the weather for Sunday and they hear the weather for practice, some guys are like 'ahh,'" Taylor said. "You see the linemen are like, 'Yes, this is what we've been waiting on.'"
_Forget Burrow's four picks and handing Fitzpatrick a pick-six on the season's second play.
How about on the first snap of his NFL career, -playing against Hall-of-Famer-to-be Cam Heyward, rookie left guard Cordell Volson gives up a sack? But if Burrow has buried his disappointment with a top five effort, Volson has proven that his fourth-round selection has yielded a blossoming solid starter.
According to Pro Football Focus, he's allowed just two sacks since.
"We probably put him in a bad spot on the first play, the game where he gave up his first rep against Cam Heyward,' said offensive coordinator Brian Callahan after Wednesday's practice. "But he's really done a nice job this year and he's really settled down and played consistently, especially the last month or so. He's really good.
"He's seen it all in ten weeks of football … He works at it. It's important to him, his technique is improved. He's learning how to play with length. He's a physical player as it is. But he's he really is learning how to play with that down in down out tenacity that you have to have up front. I've been really happy with what he's done for us and how he's played. "