You can’t tell the story of the Cincinnati Bengals rise to relevance without Joe Burrow. And you can’t tell the story of the Burrow-led victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night without mentioning T.J. Watt.
Burrow was about as good as it gets in the 37-30 victory over Pittsburgh. The only real flaws? One was a tipped pass that resulted in a diving interception by Steeler linebacker Levi Wallace late in the second quarter. The other might just go down in Pittsburgh lore as one of the greatest of all time. Even Burrow was impressed.
“Man, that guy — I mean, I’ve never seen plays like that made before from a defensive linemen,” Burrow said after the game. “And he’s made two against me this year. I would love to say that there’s something I can do about that, but there’s just nothing I can do about that.”
With 5:27 left in the third quarter, Cincinnati took over at its own 23-yard line, clinging to a 24-20 lead. Burrow dropped back to pass, and Bengals’ right tackle La’el Collins pushed Watt to the inside. Off balance and seemingly on his way down, Watt reached up with both hands. Somehow, he grabbed hold of a Burrow pass attempt and held on as he fell to the turf. Even his brother, perennial all-Pro J.J. Watt, was amazed by this one.
Pittsburgh sports personality Andrew Fillipponi may have said it best, though.
“They’ll show this play when T.J. Watt goes into the Hall of Fame someday.”
Fortunately for the Bengals, Pittsburgh’s offense won’t be joining him there. All the Steelers could manage was a field goal to get within 24-23, and Cincinnati was able to pull away from there.
“That was awesome, that was awesome,” Burrow said. “One of my favorite wins since I’ve been here.”
Of course, Burrow was a big reason for that as he finished with 24 completions in 39 attempts (61 percent) for 346 yards and four touchdowns, good for an overall rating of 104.1.
Three of those touchdown passes went to back-up running back Samaje Perine, who matched his career touchdown total in one game.
“Samaje’s just — one, obviously, he’s a great player,” Burrow said. “He steps up whenever his opportunity presents itself. And two, he’s — you know, one of those locker room guys that everybody talks about. Great in the locker room. Great guy to talk to. Culture builder. He’s fun to play with.”
The fourth went to Trenton Irwin, who came into the game with a total of 12 catches since joining the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He had three catches Sunday, including his first career touchdown.
“You know, he hasn’t had a ton of opportunities, but every single time that his opportunity comes, he makes a play,” Burrow said. “I couldn’t be happier for that guy. He just continues to show up when his opportunity presents itself. And, you know, those are the kind of guys that Bengals football and the Bengals organization is all about.”