Not only did Burfict play at Pittsburgh after just two official practices since offseason microfracture surgery, but he even got the start at weakside linebacker. Burfict then made his presence felt quickly by making tackles on the game's first two plays. He finished this game with five solo tackles, which was tied for the most of any Bengal, though linebacker Vinny Rey had 8 total tackles on the day.
Head coach Marvin Lewis is certainly happy to have one of his star players back on the field and not having to answer questions about his rehab and possible return any longer.
"It’s big for him," Lewis said of Burfict's return. "It’s an emotional day for him. It’s good to get out there for him to start working on his conditioning."
But after his first two stops, Burfict was in and out of the lineup as the Bengals kept his snap count low. After all, he was just activated to the 53-man roster on Saturday before getting in two practices earlier in the week, his first since the 2014 season. Going nearly 12 months without playing a game is something that would keep most players from playing at even a respectable level when they return.
Burfict clearly was ready to make an instant impact.
"He has the right personality to play this game," Lewis said. "Part of his personality is also part of my coaching work. It goes two-fold."
However, as has been the case with Burfict, his on-field acts after the whistle blows are drawing criticism once again. This time, it was Burfict's celebration following his second-quarter tackle on Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell, which may have seriously injured the Pittsburgh star player. It's hard to say Burfict knew he'd injured Bell and was celebrating it that quickly, but that's exactly what Steelers guard Ramon Foster thinks happened.
"If you're on the field with him, you know what I mean by that," Foster said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "They'll play it off; he'll act dumb about it. But you don't run across the field hyped, celebrating, jumping up and down when a guy goes down like that."
Adamski also notes that Steelers tackle Marcus Gilbert called Burfict's move "bull (crap)," but also that Burfict said he "heard a snap and was horrified" at Bell's injury. Burfict also told ESPN's Coley Harvey that he and Bell are friends and celebrating an injury was not what Burfict was doing. He was simply celebrating a good, clean tackle, which per the rulebook, is what his tackle on Bell was.
This is nothing Burfict is going to get fined over, even if he was celebrating. It's not uncommon for players to want to see guys like Bell taken out of the game, though no one should ever want to see a player as hurt as Bell appeared to be.
Whatever happened, it's definitely possible that Burfict was simply celebrating one of his many stand-out plays of the day, not knowing Bell was injured. After the game, he did Tweet this at the Steelers' RB, who is now rumored to be out for the rest of the year with a severe MCL tear.
@L_Bell26 hope u solid bro— Vontaze Burfict (@King55Tez) November 1, 2015