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Vontaze Burfict is ready for the Steelers

The last time Vontaze Burfict faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he made a catastrophic mistake. But, according to Marvin Lewis and Adam Jones, Burfict is ready to redeem himself.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

We all remember what happened at the end of the Bengals’ most recent Wild Card playoff game against the Steelers. Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball as the Bengals had a slim one point lead and a pair of personal fouls from Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones set the Steelers up in relatively easy field goal positioning for the game-winning chip shot. Burfict was suspended for his personal foul, although the message seems to have finally sunk in for him. He has only had two particularly criticized incidents this year, one of which was a highly questionable ‘stomp’ on Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount that resulted in a $75,000 fine.

That incident and a fine for flipping off people in the stands in Week 11 against the Bills have been the only sportsmanship related incidents for Burfict this year. However, arguably his biggest test to see how far he’s come since last season will be on Sunday against the Steelers. That said, don’t tell that to Adam Jones, because he told reporters this week that he believes the Steelers will be a non-issue for the Burfict.

“If you want to make it a big test, since you said it, but I'm not going to say it,” Jones said via ESPN. “He'll be all right.”

That confidence comes despite the fact that he knows this game is going to be a minefield for Burfict, who will undoubtedly be egged on by the Steelers in the interest of drawing penalties.

“Oh, you know they’re going to try to bait him,” he said. “I would, too.”

There is a certain mentality present with Burfict that can get him into trouble at times. But, even when referencing that, Jones insists that it is no longer an issue for the Bengals’ embattled star.

“I just think mentally he's at a spot now where he's just like, 'All right, I'm just going to play football,’" Jones said. “By far he's one of the best linebackers in the league, if not the best. So I think he's done a good job of letting his play talk. He still has his edge, but he picks and chooses his battles now.”

In addition to Jones’ vote of confidence, Marvin Lewis reaffirmed his longstanding support of Burfict in a press conference this week.

“When you play linebacker, you’re at the tip of the sword all the time. You’re going to be put in positions that way with the way you play the game,” Lewis said. “Linebackers, safeties — it’s an unfair thing. You look at Mike Mitchell on the other side. Those guys are put in positions all the time where it’s bang-bang. That doesn’t happen for an offensive guard. If it’s a 60-play game, it could be 35 times where they’re in a position that way that could be looked on as a foul or penalty.”

The Bengals are going to be glad to see Burfict do his thing this week, and hoping he keeps playing the way he has this season, within the rules of the game. He has been absolutely incredible this year since returning in Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins, recording 71 tackles, two sacks, seven pass deflections, two interceptions returned for 54 yards, and one forced fumble.

“He is incredible in his ability to diagnose,” Lewis said. “It’s been recognizable that way since the very first day he was here. He’s smart; he understands plays and puts himself in position. Like Shazier, he’s quick off the mark. Both of them are moving full speed and downhill.”

That level of production might have been enough to allow the Bengals to steal a win from the Steelers on Sunday. For this upcoming game, Lewis had some valuable advice for how Burfict can overcome his issues and continue his recent high standard of play.

“It’s just to continue to do it the way you’re coached to do it, all the time. That’s the best thing I can tell you. Understand what’s allowable in this NFL of today,” Lewis said. “Derrick Brooks had great words of wisdom for Vontaze last year. He told him, ‘Vontaze, you play in a different league than I played in. Things are different now. You have to just understand that.’ The scrutiny we know is different. Back in 1992 or ’93, I think I coached the first guys that were ever fined. Their defense was, ‘You’re selling the NFL’s Greatest Hits with us in it.’ But it’s a changed game from what it was then.”