Oct 23, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals head to Pittsburgh looking to keep pace in AFC North

The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers have watched their seasons go in opposite directions after the Steelers won their Week 1 meeting.

The Bengals are out to avenge that loss and keep pace in the AFC North Division standings when they visit Pittsburgh on Sunday.

Joe Burrow was sacked seven times and threw four interceptions when the Bengals (5-4) fell to the Steelers 23-20 in overtime on Sept. 11. Pittsburgh managed to spoil host Cincinnati’s first game since reaching Super Bowl LVI the previous winter.

The Bengals went on to start 0-2 but have gone 5-2 since. They’re one game behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North race with seven games to go. The Bengals, who lost to the Ravens on Oct. 8, close the regular season by hosting Baltimore.

“That’s always the goal. That’s right there for us,” Burrow said. “We are a game out of first place. We have to go and get this one and then we will take it from there.”

In their most recent game before their Week 10 bye, the Bengals trounced the Carolina Panthers 42-21. Joe Mixon scored a career-high five touchdowns, rushing for a career-best four scores and a season-high 153 yards on 22 carries and catching four passes, including a 12-yard touchdown, for 58 yards.

“We ran the ball great two weeks ago now, but that’s just one game,” Burrow said. “So we got to build on that. The coaching staff is really excited about the plan, so am I and Joe’s looking to build on that momentum from that week.”

Burrow stands at 9,834 career passing yards through 35 regular-season games and can become the fourth-fastest in NFL history to reach 10,000 if he throws for at least 166 Sunday.

The Steelers (3-6) started Mitch Trubisky at quarterback in Week 1, but amid a four-game losing streak after that season opener they moved on to first-round selection Kenny Pickett. The rookie had one of his best performances of the season in last week’s 20-10 win over the New Orleans Saints by completing 18 of 30 passes for 199 yards and rushing for 51 yards and a touchdown.

So far Pickett is completing 66.7 percent of his passes but has just two touchdowns against eight interceptions. He said that red-zone offense is one particular area where he must improve.

“We’re not where we need to be,” Pickett said, per the team website. “Obviously, there’s less grass, so it’s tighter windows, the timing, everything is faster. I’ve got to meet the guys at certain spots with the ball and they’ve got to get there on time. The game changes when you get down there. The calls change. The system changes. There are definitely things we need to get better at.”

Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick did not practice Wednesday after having an appendectomy last Saturday. Coincidentally, Burrow was still recovering from an August appendectomy when he faced Pittsburgh in Week 1.

Asked if he had any advice for Fitzpatrick during his recovery, Burrow quipped, “Maybe wait just an extra week.”

Pittsburgh was also without cornerback Akhello Witherspoon (hamstring), linebacker Marcus Allen (illness), linebacker Devin Bush (knee), defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (knee) and offensive linemen Kevin Doston (hip) and Trent Scott (back) Wednesday. But star edge rusher T.J. Watt (pectoral) and starting running back Najee Harris (knee) were full participants.

Cincinnati would like to have star receiver Ja’Marr Chase back this week from a hip injury, but he did not practice Wednesday, nor did safety Dax Hill (shoulder) or defensive tackle Josh Tupou (calf). Coach Zac Taylor said Tupou won’t play this week.

Running back Chris Evans (knee) and cornerback Tre Flowers (hamstring) were limited participants in practice while corner Mike Hilton (finger) practiced in full.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (22) walks off the field after the victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals place CB Chidobe Awuzie (knee) on IR

The Cincinnati Bengals officially placed cornerback Chidobe Awuzie on injured reserve Saturday with a torn ACL sustained in Monday night’s loss to the Cleveland Browns.

An MRI confirmed the injury to Awuzie’s right knee. He is expected to have season-ending surgery later this month, once the swelling subsides.

Awuzie sustained the non-contact injury in the second quarter while defending a pass to Browns wideout Amari Cooper.

The 27-year-old veteran said he didn’t realize the extent of his injury when he came off the field and went to the medical tent.

“With the adrenaline going, you can’t really tell what’s what at times,” Awuzie said Thursday, per the Dayton Daily News. “Your emotions, your energy is so high and then when they told me it’s a torn ACL and whatever else, I got really emotional.”

Awuzie is in his second season with the Bengals after signing a three-year deal worth $21.75 million with the club in March 2021. He has started all 22 games he has played in Cincinnati.

Awuzie has six interceptions, 56 passes defensed and three forced fumbles in 71 games (64 starts) for the Dallas Cowboys (2017-20) and Bengals. The Cowboys selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Bengals (4-4) made a few other moves Saturday ahead of Sunday’s game against the visiting Carolina Panthers (2-6).

Cincinnati signed defensive tackle Domenique Davis off the practice squad and elevated cornerback Allan George and wide receiver Trenton Irwin to the active roster for the Week 9 contest.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) rushes against New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Maye (6) during the first half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase lead Bengals’ rally past Saints

Joe Burrow threw three touchdown passes as the visiting Cincinnati Bengals came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the New Orleans Saints 30-26 on Sunday afternoon.

Burrow completed 28 of 37 passes for 300 yards and connected with Ja’Marr Chase for two touchdowns in the second half as the Bengals (3-3) took the lead for the first time with 1:57 remaining.

Chase, a native of New Orleans, finished with seven catches for 132 yards.

Former Bengal Andy Dalton, making his third consecutive start in place of the injured Jameis Winston, passed for 162 yards and a touchdown for the Saints (2-4).

On the first possession of the second half, Wil Lutz kicked the third of his four field goals, a 37-yarder that gave New Orleans a 23-14 lead.

Burrow’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Chase trimmed the lead to 23-21 late in the third quarter.

Lutz kicked a 31-yard field goal and Evan McPherson answered with one from 52 yards that left the Saints with a 26-24 lead with 3:41 left.

On the first play after a New Orleans punt, Burrow and Chase connected on a 60-yard touchdown pass.

Dalton then brought the Saints to the Cincinnati 41, but they turned the ball over on downs.

In the first quarter, the Bengals’ Trent Taylor fumbled a punt that Adam Trautman recovered for the Saints at their 32. Three plays later, Dalton threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith for an early 7-0 lead.

Burrow’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Joe Mixon on third-and-goal to tie the score at the end of the first quarter.

Undrafted rookie Rashid Shaheed ran 44 yards for a touchdown on his first touch in the NFL to give the Saints a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter.

Lutz’s 35-yard field goal widened the lead to 17-7.

Burrow scrambled for a 19-yard touchdown run on third and 8 to trim the lead to 17-14.

Lutz added a 30-yard field goal that gave New Orleans a 20-14 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Tight end O.J. Howard eyes in a pass on the opening day of the Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher University in Rochester Sunday, July 24, 2022.

Sd 072422 Bills Camp 26 Spts

Report: Ex-Bills TE O.J. Howard visits Bengals

Tight end O.J. Howard is visiting the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday, one day after being cut by the Buffalo Bills.

NFL Network reported that the former first-round pick is expected to sign, pending the results of a physical exam.

Howard’s release was a surprise, as he signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal when he joined the Bills on March 16.

In Cincinnati, he will compete for playing time behind projected starter Hayden Hurst. Drew Sample and Mitchell Wilcox are the other TEs on the roster.

Howard was a first-round pick (19th overall) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017 after a breakout season with Alabama.

His impact on the Buccaneers was minimized by injuries, including a torn Achilles and high ankle sprain. He caught 14 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown last season.

In five NFL seasons and 59 total games (46 starts), Howard has 119 receptions for 1,737 yards and 15 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) reacts after suffering an injury in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals QB Joe Burrow won’t need surgery for MCL sprain

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow will not require surgery for the MCL sprain sustained in Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI defeat, coach Zac Taylor said Wednesday.

Burrow was limping noticeably after being sacked for the seventh time with 11:38 left in the fourth quarter of the 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, Calif.

“Joe had the sprained MCL, and that’s really a re-aggravation of something he did back in December,” Taylor said. “But he’s a tough guy, he played through it. Rest is going to be the best thing for him. So that part’s encouraging. So, again, he’s going to get some much-needed rest here these next couple of weeks and expect him to come back fully healthy.”

Taylor also said Burrow won’t need surgery for the pinky finger he dislocated late in the season.

Burrow, 25, completed 22 of 33 passes for 263 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions against the Rams.

The 2021 NFL Comeback Player of the Year completed a league-best 70.4 percent of his passes for 4,611 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions during the regular season.

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor before playing against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals extend Zac Taylor’s contract through 2026

Cincinnati extended coach Zac Taylor’s contract through the 2026 season after he led the Bengals to their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years.

Financial terms were not announced.

In his third year with the team, Taylor guided Cincinnati to a 10-7 finish in the regular season as well as playoff victories over the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs before falling 23-20 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood, Calif.

“Zac has come into the league and worked to develop the foundations for a winning program that can be successful over time,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement on Wednesday. “The fruits of Zac’s efforts were seen this year, and Zac is well-regarded by our players and coaches.

“I know the effort and passion Zac brings to the building and to our team, and I am pleased by his approach. And I think the city of Cincinnati sees him the way the players and I do. He’s brought excitement to the town and deserves credit and recognition for that.”

Taylor, 38, was entering the final season of the original four-year contract he signed in 2019. The Bengals were 6-25-1 in his first two seasons before winning the AFC North for the first time since 2015.

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates with the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl LVI most-watched game in five years

Super Bowl LVI was the most watched television show in five years and averaged 112.3 million viewers across all platforms, the NFL announced Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Sunday’s game.

In all, 101.1 million viewers watched the game on NBC and its Spanish-language sister, Telemundo. An additional 11.2 million people streamed the game, primarily on NBC’s Peacock.

The total was the most since a viewership of 113.7 million for Super Bowl LI in 2017, when the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28, the NFL said.

The 2021 Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs drew an average of 96.4 million viewers on television for CBS.

“The Super Bowl once again delivered a massive audience, which included NBC and the unmatched power of broadcast television as well as first-ever presentations on Peacock and Telemundo, and led into our most-watched Olympics coverage in four years,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming said in a news release.

The Super Bowl halftime show, starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, averaged 103.4 million viewers.

Among local markets, Cincinnati led the way in viewership with a 46.1 rating/84 share. That means 46.1 percent of all households in the market had the game turned on, and 84 percent of the people who were watching television at the time were watching the game.

Los Angeles had a 36.7/77 market share.

No. 2 on the list was Detroit, where Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford spent 12 seasons before an offseason trade sent him west. Detroit had a 45.9/79 share.

Two other metro areas in Ohio were in the ratings top 10 — Columbus and Cleveland.

–Field Level Media

Jan 22, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) runs after a reception against the Tennessee Titans during a AFC Divisional playoff football game at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah (knee) to play Sunday

Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah will play in Super Bowl LVI despite a sprained MCL in his left knee, ESPN reported Sunday morning.

Uzomah, 29, is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s showdown with the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, Calif.

Uzomah was a full participant in Friday’s practice. He was injured during the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs and returned to practice Thursday in a limited capacity.

“I’m not missing the biggest game of my life,” Uzomah said earlier this week.

The seven-year veteran had 49 catches for 493 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season — all career highs — and added 13 receptions for 135 yards and a score in three playoff games.

–Field Level Media

Jan 15, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (87) runs onto the field before to the game against the Las Vegas Raiders in an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Notebook: Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah (knee) plans to play in Super Bowl

It’s going to take a lot to keep Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah from suiting up Sunday and playing in Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams.

Uzomah was carted to the locker room during the AFC Championship on Jan. 30 with a left knee injury, later diagnosed as an MCL sprain despite how ugly it looked at first blush.

“It’s the Super Bowl. I’m doing everything I can,” Uzomah said with a grin Monday. “I don’t really care too much about how I’m feeling, to be honest, when I’m out there. … To me, I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m not missing the biggest game of my life.’ Right? I’m not missing it.”

Uzomah has yet to return to practices with the team since the 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. On Saturday, reporters at Bengals practice spotted him working out on the side, including riding a stationary bike.

Uzomah said he is working with Cincinnati’s director of rehabilitation and performance, Nick Cosgray, to determine how he should proceed, asking him questions about whether he could risk structural damage if he did too much too soon.

But he insisted he’s feeling “really, really good.”

Uzomah, 29, had 13 receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown in Cincinnati’s first two playoff victories. The seven-year veteran who has spent his entire career with the Bengals established career bests of 49 receptions, 493 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games during the regular season.

–The Bengals may be a new face in the heights of the NFL hierarchy, but coach Zac Taylor said his players, though young, are mature and will rise to the occasion Sunday.

That’s because he and director of player personnel Duke Tobin took very deliberate tactics to build the current roster with a championship in mind.

“They’re not overwhelmed by these moments. … That’s why we’ve spent a lot of time with Duke Tobin building the team this way,” Taylor explained. “It’s a lot of guys who’ve played in championships in college, whether it was at LSU or Clemson or Alabama or Ohio State. And then a lot of these free agents we’ve signed have been a part of playoff teams before. These guys, they know they belong on this stage and we know we’re gonna get their best on Sunday.”

The College Football Playoff experience shows up everywhere from quarterback Joe Burrow and receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who won a national championship together at LSU, to receiver Tee Higgins (Clemson) and defensive lineman Khalid Kareem (Notre Dame).

–The Bengals are perhaps known best for their dynamic group of wide receivers. Chase broke rookie records on his way to finishing fourth in the NFL with 1,455 yards and third with 13 touchdown catches. Tee Higgins has made a name for himself on the opposite side.

But another vital part of their receiving corps has been Tyler Boyd, who has made 77 straight catches without a drop, according to NFL Network.

“It’s actually a privilege to be playing in the National Football League, you know, so every time I step foot out there, I’m gonna prove to myself and prove to everybody why I deserve to be there,” Boyd said. “With Joey B’s help, it makes everything easier because he’s so smart and he understands football.”

Burrow, in turn, said Boyd was a “very underrated” part of the Bengals’ high-powered offense.

“I wish he would get more love, because he’s one of the best slot guys in the league,” Burrow said. “He really understands what we’re trying to do on each play, and he’s always where I expect him to be — and he never drops a ball.”

–Burrow was asked point-blank if he ever thought about rejecting the then-woeful Bengals before the 2020 NFL Draft, when he was the presumptive first pick. The star quarterback’s response was swift.

“No, I never thought about telling the Bengals not to draft me or anything like that,” Burrow said. “I was just happy to be in the position that I was in, being the potential No. 1 pick. That was exciting for me. I would never throw that opportunity away.”

It’s hard to imagine now that Burrow has helped turn Cincinnati into a Super Bowl contender, but because of the franchise’s hard luck and terrible 2019 season that saw them finish 2-14, some corners of social media suggested that Burrow should in fact avoid the Bengals at all costs.

Burrow’s own comments at the NFL scouting combine were interpreted by some as a lack of enthusiasm for playing for Cincinnati: “Yeah, I’m not going to not play. I’m a ballplayer. Whoever picks me, I’m going to go show up.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2021; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) talks with head coach Zac Taylor during an official review in the third quarter of the NFL Week 7 game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.  Mandatory Credit: Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Burrow, Zac Taylor focused on present, not Bengals’ past

Quarterback Joe Burrow and coach Zac Taylor guided the Cincinnati Bengals to their best season in more than 30 years to reach Super Bowl LVI.

Along the way, the franchise had to snap the NFL’s longest active drought without a playoff win, one that dated to the 1990 season. There is still one more hurdle to overcome: The Bengals are 0-2 in Super Bowls entering Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.

But turning those fortunes around did not become a rallying cry inside Cincinnati’s locker room this season. Asked several questions about that team history Monday, Burrow and Taylor said the Bengals have always been focused on the here and now.

“Honestly, we’ve never even spoken about the playoff drought once this whole season,” Burrow said. “We have a really young team that doesn’t even understand the historical significance of what we’re doing. We’re just out there playing football, and getting better while we’re doing it.”

“It’s important to embrace all that (history) and understand all that, but this is the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals. They weren’t a part of all that yet,” Taylor added. “And so they’re very much focused, they have a very narrow focus on week to week, playing their best and winning these playoff games to put us in this position.

“I think those are things that they can reflect back on after the season when all the work is said and done, of just how memorable and just how special that is to not only this team and this organization but the city as a whole.”

That isn’t to say Burrow and Taylor are ignorant of the Bengals’ past. Burrow, of course, grew up in Southeast Ohio, where he said NFL allegiances were usually split between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns, with a sprinkling of Bengals fans around as well that “kind of got made fun of a little bit.” (Burrow rooted for the Saints because he admired Drew Brees.)

Now Burrow has the chance to deliver a team from his home state its first Lombardi Trophy.

“Being from Ohio and being the quarterback of the Bengals is something I’m really proud of,” Burrow said.

Cincinnati last played in the big game in Super Bowl XXIII, when Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers engineered a game-winning touchdown drive to beat Boomer Esiason’s Bengals 20-16. Not only was Burrow not yet born at that point, but Taylor himself was just 5 years old.

The 38-year-old Taylor embodies a quality that he said is prevalent through his team: young (average age: 25.6 years), but mature.

“Nobody even really realizes how young Zac is,” Burrow said. “He does a great job of commanding the room and I would say the only time you notice it is when he’s relating to the players. He does a great job of doing that, like you expect he would.”

–Field Level Media