Steelers veteran linebacker says he's looking forward to sacking Joe Burrow in 2020
Burrow has already gotten the attention of his future opponents
Joe Burrow, as he was putting the finishing touches on one of the greatest seasons in college football history, was also sending a not so subtle message to his future defensive opponents at the NFL level: ready or not, here I come.
Burrow, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner and surefire No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, threw five touchdown passes while leading the Tigers to a 42-25 victory over Clemson in the CFP National Championship Game. In the process, Burrow caught the attention of veteran Steelers linebacker Vince Williams, who offered the following comment via social media during Monday's game.
It's a safe bet that Williams and his teammates will get two opportunities to harass Burrow next season, as the Bengals -- one of the Steelers' AFC divisional foes -- are expected to select Burrow with the first overall pick. While he was already slated to be selected by the Bengals entering Monday night's game, his 463-yard effort against Clemson has all but secured his draft status as well as his future in Cincinnati.
In 15 games this season, Burrow, an Ohio native who started his college career at Ohio State before heading to Baton Rouge as a graduate transfer, completed 76.3% of his passes for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns with just six interceptions. In his final three games, starting with LSU's win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, Burrow threw 16 touchdowns and zero picks while helping the Tigers secure their third national championship since 2003.
Burrow is slated to become the third former Heisman Trophy winner to start for an AFC North team, joining 2016 winner Lamar Jackson and 2017 winner, Baker Mayfield. While both Mayfield and Jackson have enjoyed success at the next level, both players are also facing question marks as they head into their third season.
Following an impressive rookie campaign that saw him throw 27 touchdown passes, Mayfield regressed in 2019, completing less than 60% of his passes while throwing nearly as many interceptions (21) as touchdown passes (22). Jackson, despite putting together an MVP caliber regular season, is facing questions about his 0-2 playoff record following Baltimore's upset playoff loss to the Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs.
It's safe to say that Burrow will face similar obstacles during the initial stages of his NFL career. He will also be charged with helping turn around a Bengals team that won just two games during Zac Taylor's first season as the Bengals' head coach. That being said, the Bengals do have some talent on the offensive side of the ball that includes receiver A.J. Green (assuming the Bengals retain Green, a soon-to-be free agent), fellow receivers Tyler Boyd and John Ross, running back Joe Mixon and tight end Tyler Eifert. Burrow will also have the opportunity to work with Taylor, who served as Jared Goff quarterbacks coach when the Rams advanced to Super Bowl LIII.
While Burrow will look to mesh with his new teammates, he will also have to face NFL defenses that are already looking forward to facing him. One of those defenses resides in Pittsburgh, as Burrow will likely face a Steelers defense that recorded an NFL-high 54 sacks last season. Burrow will also have to be up to the task of facing individual defensive standouts in the North that includes Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt, Cleveland's Myles Garrett and Baltimore's Matt Judon.
Despite the challenges that await him, it appears that Burrow, based on his post-game demeanor on Monday night, is not too worried about what's down the road at this current point in time.
While he will have to begin preparations for the next phase of his career sometime soon, it's clear that, for now, Vince Williams and the rest of the NFL can wait.
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