As the 8-6 Bengals head to Pittsburgh for Saturday's AFC North showdown (4:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) with the 7-7 Steelers, right end Trey Hendrickson finds himself locked in a close race himself with Steelers All-Pro T.J. Watt.
Hendrickson, who broke his own Bengals record last Saturday against the Vikings and became the franchise's first 15-sacker in a season, trails Watt's NFL-leading 16 sacks.
"I've been saying this for three years,' said Hendrickson before Tuesday's practice. "I don't chase stats. I pride myself on being able to be an impact player and that's the biggest thing to me. That I'm blessed to have that opportunity to make big plays and help our team win."
It's been quite the three years in Cincinnati, where he has 37 sacks. His total of 50.5 in the decade trails only Watt (59) and Cleveland's Myles Garrett (50.5) on the NFL rolls.
"I'm blessed to do what I love to do, which is bring down quarterbacks," Hendrickson said. "I give all credit to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through faith, I'm able to do amazing things on and off the field with the help of my wife."
Hendrickson showed some big-time resiliency Saturday. With Payor Stadium exploding late in the fourth quarter when linebacker Germaine Pratt returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 24-17 lead, the points were taken off the board when Hendrickson was ruled offsides.
After the Bengals did tie it with 39 seconds left at 24, Hendrickson made sure it was going overtime with a first-down sack.
"We do a great job in our defensive room with the next -play mentality no matter how bad and that's about as bad as it gets," Hendrickson said. "I felt terrible for Germaine. It's one of those things I wanted to step up after that. Because those are the kinds of career plays you play for. When you're a kid and you play you always think of a pick-six . I felt terrible. It was the discretion of the officiating crew and they do a great job. Credit to them."
There's a sense in the Bengals locker room that Hendrickson doesn't get the credit of Watt or Garrett.
"That doesn't bother Trey. We know how good he is. We know he's a game-changer. I feel good when 91 is coming off the edge for me," said slot cornerback Mike Hilton after Tuesday's practice. "When you mention guys like Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt, you have to throw in Trey Hendrickson. The AFC North has the three best pash rushers in all football. People need to respect what Trey has done and what he continues to do."
Pratt said, yes, Hendrickson talked to him and that the games go on. "Get one Saturday," Pratt said.
INJURY UPDATE: Before Tuesday's practice, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor wouldn't confirm a report that Pro Bowl wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase's shoulder injury is going to keep him out of the Pittsburgh game and maybe beyond.
"We'll see as the week goes," said Taylor when asked if he'll play against the Steelers.
A day after captain, nose tackle, and defensive line anchor DJ Reader (quad) was put on season-ending injured reserve, Hilton had the words to fit the occasion.
"A lot of people say I'm the heart and soul, but DJ is the heart and soul of this defense," Hilton said. "He's the guy in the middle. Disrupting the run. He's one of the best at what he does. We are definitely going to miss him and it's important for these guys to step up."
Those guys are the same guys who stepped up last year when Reader went down for six games in midseason in a stretch the Bengals went 4-2 and includes backup nose Josh Tupou, Zach Carter, and Jay Tufele, who didn't play the last four games but played well last year when Reader was out.
"Kind of like last year," Tufele said. "We've got a lot of good players. But you have to be ready when they need you."
Chase was the only player to sit out Tuesday. Browning went full despite a gash on his right forearm, as did special teams linebacker Joe Bachie (oblique) and backup tackle Jackson Carman (illness) after they were inactive on Saturday.
Right guard Alex Cappa (ankle/knee) who missed a handful of snaps in the last game, was limited. So was running back Chase Brown (sternum) and defensive end/tackle Cam Sample (knee).
ONE BROWNING REGRET: This is why you have to love Jake Browning. On Tuesday he met the press and said the one reget he had from last Saturday's 'They Never Should Have Cut Me," explosion he yelled into the camera when the Bengals beat his first NFL team, the Vikings, is that it added to the mythology of quarterbacks getting too much blame when their team loses and too much credit when they win.
So he wanted to make sure to call out those who deserved it.
"It's never as good, never as bad as you thought. And we played unbelievable at a lot of positions that weren't quarterback, and so, just to rattle off a few," Browning said. "I threw a pick in minus territory in the fourth quarter, that turns into three points. That's losing the game type of play if our defense doesn't swell up. Lose DJ Reader, who is an All-Pro level nose guard, in the first quarter, and then we stuff them on third-and-short, fourth-and-inches. That's another one we lose the game if they don't do that.
"And then I throw the ball up to Tee (Higgins) and he makes one of the craziest plays I've ever seen. And then I have an authentic reaction. You keep it all pent up and then it comes out. But I guess my biggest regret was that game turned into like my revenge game, when in reality there were so many things that went into getting that win. Making sure it's acknowledged it wasn't just my revenge game, it was a great team win."