COMMENTARY | For all the sideline fanfare and prime-time hype of the Monday Night Football battle between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2, flying largely under the radar was the best news on the injury front that Bengals' fans have seen so far this season: the return of the team's dominant left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
Whitworth was a surprise starter after he was listed as questionable on the team's final injury report prior to the MNF win. The eight-year veteran didn't play in the season opener and had missed preseason due to a knee injury that required surgery in the offseason and a second procedure more recently in August.
Not only did Whitworth start, he also finished with a flurry after playing most of the game's snaps at left tackle. With a little more than three minutes to go in the game, Whitworth became entangled with Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu and the pair went down entangled in a hairy mess that spurred some sideline extracurriculars. The sight of a healthy and feisty Whitworth battling from start to finish was a good indicator that the biggest injury concern facing the Bengals' offense early in the season is no longer an issue.
Perhaps the most unheralded of the Bengals' veteran defenders, 10-year defensive lineman Robert Geathers has spent his entire career with the Bengals and provided defensive line versatility like no one else for the past decade. His elbow injury in the second quarter Monday night forced him out of action for the rest of the game and may prove to be an issue for the Bengals going forward.
Geathers is primarily a right defensive end now, who is used in a rotation that positions Wallace Gilberry at left defensive end while Geathers is in the game. If the injury forces Geathers to miss any game action, rookie Margus Hunt will get the call to fill in and may even prove that he's more than ready to take over the role for the rest of the season.
The injury-plagued special teamer and backup cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick sustained yet another injury -- a strained hamstring in the MNF win. A first-round draft pick in 2012, Kirkpatrick's latest setback may be cause for concern that another often-injured backup CB Brandon Ghee will be needed at some point during the season in Kirkpatrick's stead -- perhaps sooner rather than later.
The Bengals' defense had a couple of scares Monday night. Two key starters -- left DE Michael Johnson and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga -- both missed time during the game for evaluation and treatment. Johnson was pulled for concussion protocol but did return to action full force. Maualuga suffered cramping after helping stop the Steelers' offense on a third down with five minutes left in the third quarter. Maualuga also returned after locker room treatment and finished the game strong with eight total tackles.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for more than five years. He posts his NFL draft predictions each year at footballnostradamus.com
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- Andrew Whitworth
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Robert Geathers