After his first game against the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field, Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow limped off the field following the 36-10 loss and pronounced himself fine.
Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree pushed Burrow out of bounds in the final minute of the first half and he crashed into the Bengals bench. He said he rolled his ankle and that it didn't affect his dismal second-half performance of five for 15 for 24 yards after he was a solid 16 of 25 for 189 yards before he slalomed into the bench.
"I missed throws. That's all it came down to," Burrow said. "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."
Asked if he still felt it in the second half, he said, "It doesn't matter."
After the next-to-last series of the game, when Burrow got sacked twice and hit after another pass, he limped off the field. But he said there was no discussion and he came back on the field again to finish it with running back Trayveon Williams' first five NFL carries for 22 yards.
"I'm not a quitter," Burrow said.
The Bengals stuffed the Steelers on 44 rushing yards, the third fewest they've ever given to Pittsburgh. It tied the effort in the Paul Brown Stadium win in 2013 and was only behind the 29 yards the Bengals allowed in a loss the next year in Pittsburgh and the 23 yards they allowed in a 1982 loss in Pittsburgh.
"We take pride in that. We played physical up front. I'm happy with the way we fought," said defensive end Sam Hubbard. "We're just doing things the right way throughout the week at practice and we're going to keep climbing and getting better and we're going to go on a run here these last few games."
Never before had the Bengals had 13 third downs in a game and missed them all. That's what happened in Sunday and both head coach Zac Taylor and Burrow took turns taking the blame in the post-game Zooms from Heinz.
Taylor: "I didn't get us into a rhythm as a play caller."
Burrow: "I'm not going to suck like that very often."
According to Pro Football Reference, the most third downs the Bengals had missed in a game is when the Neil Donnell-led Bengals missed all ten in a 27-10 loss in Oakland on Oct. 25, 1998.
The Bengals lost three defensive assistants suddenly for COVID-19 related reasons Sunday morning and one of them was senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner, a guy that works with the ends and pass rushers. Also out were cornerbacks coach Steven Jackson and linebackers coach Al Golden.
"I think it's just 2020, just another curveball being thrown at us," Hubbard said. "We've already lost a lot of guys to COVID. It's just another thing that you've got to adjust on the fly, just like not being able to be in the facility all week with the intensive protocols. You just have to take it and make the most out of it and do what you can."
Safety Jessie Bates III saw safeties coach Robert Livingston also coach the cornerbacks. When slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander went out with a concussion halfway through the first quarter, Livingston only had three to work with and two of them, Tony Brown and Jalen Davis, were getting basically their first snaps of the season. Davis probably nearly matched his career total of 60 snaps.
Livingston told Bates he was the next man on the corner if anybody else went down.
"It was surprising," Bates said of Jackson going out. "All our coaches do a real good job of talking to us on the sideline and stuff like that. Not having him on the sideline is different, obviously. But yeah, I didn't know anything about it until Vonn (Bell) called me this morning. He was my alarm clock calling me about the news."
Rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins had his second 100-yard game with 115 yards on seven catches, putting him on pace for 1,080 yards.