On Tuesday Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin opened his weekly press conference by saying, “Good afternoon, we are excited to be back in the kitchen in the AFC North” and getting ready to take on the Cincinnati Bengals.
But Tomlin openly admitted there is one former Bengals player he’s glad he doesn’t have to see anymore, that being ex-Cincy defensive end Carlos Dunlap, who was recently traded to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for former Steelers offensive lineman B.J. Finney and a seventh-round draft choice.
“It is unique and interesting to look at a Cincinnati front and not have to deal with defensive end Carlos Dunlap. We do not miss Carlos Dunlap,” said Tomlin, with a little laugh, before noting that another longtime nemesis on the Bengals—11th-year defensive tackle Geno Atkins—is no longer playing as prominent role as he used to in Cincy’s defense.
“Geno is now working in a different capacity for them, focusing exclusively as a situational rusher,” explained Tomlin, “so we expect him to bring energy when he comes into that area of play.”
These days, Tomlin and Co. are focusing on minimizing the impact of fourth-year defensive end Carl Lawson (Auburn), “who just continues to evolve,” said Tomlin, before noting that “he is a catalyst for their rush; he’s the type of guy that can break a pocket down. He’s a guy you need to be cognizant of where he is.”
Mike Tomlin on Bengals Rookie QB Joe Burrow
As for the other side of the ball, Tomlin spent a good deal of time during his press conference raving about Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“I have been really impressed with their quarterback, Joe Burrow,” offered Tomlin. “He’s as good as advertised. His physical talents are one thing—and they are rock solid. He can make every throw and his accuracy is exceptional. He’s a good decision maker, he’s a fluid decision maker. His mobility is really underrated. He’s an easy mover. He can escape and create. They also have some designed quarterback runs that are challenging in the red area.
Tomlin went on to say that “the most impressive thing [about Burrow] has been his charisma or his moxie or his competitive spirit. It’s obvious that he’s an energy-bringer; it’s obvious that he brings the best out in his teammates. They are really getting a good vibe out of his play.”
Cincinnati’s COVID-19 Issues
One area where the Bengals aren’t feeling a good vibe is in relation to COVID-19.
Like Pittsburgh, which added four players to its COVID-19 list on Tuesday, Cincinnati has five players on its own COVID-19 Reserve list. Those five are cornerback Mackensie Alexander, linebacker Jordan Evans, defensive tackle Margus Hunt, cornerback Trae Waynes and former Steelers offensive tackle Fred Johnson (Florida).
The Bengals acquired Johnson after the Steelers waived him during the 2019 season. He has since appeared in 14 games for the Bengals, including a half-dozen starts.
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