The 2016 NFL schedule was released Thursday, and the Bengals won’t have Vontaze Burfict when they go to Pittsburgh in Week 2. That will be the second game of Burfict’s three-game suspension.
Steelers president Art Rooney II downplayed any notion that the league purposely scheduled a Bengals-Steelers game during Burfict’s suspension.
“I doubt that,” Rooney said on Steelers.com.
Burfict was suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Antonio Brown during a wild-card game against the Steelers in January. Brown suffered a concussion on the play and missed the Steelers’ divisional playoff game at Denver the following week. The Steelers lost that game 23-16.
Not only did Burfict take out Brown, he also temporarily knocked Ben Roethlisberger out of the game after appearing to drive his knee into the quarterback’s shoulder. And during the regular season the Steelers thought he celebrated a tackle on Le’Veon Bell that injured the running back’s knee and ended his season.
Not only do the Bengals have to go to Pittsburgh without Burfict. They open the season at the Jets, who finished 10-6 last season. Then after playing at Pittsburgh their home opener comes in Week 3 against the Super Bowl-champion Broncos.
As one of the league’s most influential executives, Rooney might be saying all the right things, but deep down he’s probably loving the Bengals’ brutal early-season schedule.