Waiting around for one of the Bengals’ best pass-catching options to get healthy is no fun. Ever since injuring his ankle in the 2016 Pro Bowl and undergoing surgery in the offseason, we have known that Tyler Eifert was likely to be out for at least the first few games of the 2016 season. Still, as he could still technically return at any time, his injury status is being announced week to week.
It is now official, according to Bengals beat writer Paul Dehner Jr, that Eifert is ruled out for the Bengals’ Week 2 excursion to Pittsburgh.
This is not a surprise at all. Eifert has reportedly been targeting a Week 4-6 return from his injury, per so the fact that he won’t play in Week 2 is expected. However, it is worth pointing out that, Eifert has not experienced any setbacks in his recovery, per Lindsay Patterson.
"I feel good. I'm progressing well,” Eifert said. “No setbacks"
It’s unfortunate that the Bengals will be without Eifert, who tied with Odell Beckham Jr. for the second-most receiving touchdowns in the NFL last year (13) and had the most of any tight end. Historically, he hasn’t ever been a huge factor against the Steelers, recording only 17 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown in five career games. But, he has proven himself to be one of the Bengals’ best receiving options, so he likely would have been a strong part of the Bengals’ offense if he was involved in the game this time around.
Still, it’s just not realistic to expect Eifert to be ready to play after missing the entirety of training camp, the preseason, and the first game of the regular season. He knows his body and level of preparation as well as anyone, which is why, according to Jeremy Rauch of Fox 19, Eifert ruled himself out despite wishing he could play in such an important game for the team.
With this news that Eifert will not be playing this week, we can expect Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah will be relied upon to pick up the slack at the tight end position. Despite a shaky preseason, Uzomah looked solid against the Jets as both a blocker and a pass catcher. Kroft didn’t do much during the game, which was due to him coming off of a knee injury and missing the entire preseason. It’s likely he’ll be more involved this week though it’s unclear who will get the start, Kroft or Uzomah.
In addition to the tight end position, Eifert’s absence creates a void in the receiving game. Although, that might not be a big deal if A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell can put up a similar performance to the 271 yard, one touchdown day that they combined for last week. Ultimately, the Bengals seem to be in good hands with the players they will have available, so while we’d all like to see Eifert back, he needs to take the necessary time to fully recover.