PITTSBURGH -- Will suspended Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict actually be missed by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday?
Wouldn't go that far. But after asking a handful of Steelers whether they'd prefer to see Burfict play for the Cincinnati Bengals in their Week 2 game at Heinz Field, nobody said outright he's glad Burfict is out. And two Steelers said they'd rather play the Bengals at full strength.
"As a competitor, to be totally honest with you, I don’t really want them to have guys missing," Steelers safety Mike Mitchell said. "You beat them and it’s, ‘Aw, you didn’t have this guy, we didn’t have that guy.' I would want him to be 100 percent. I don’t want him missing his money, either. As a person in the NFLPA, he’s missing some game checks."
If both teams are fully stocked, Mitchell said, that allows them to "bang it out and the best man wins.”
Steelers guard David DeCastro said there's no question he wants to play a full Bengals roster, Burfict included, though he added that the Bengals' defense is more than capable of filling in for the talented but troubled linebacker.
Guard Ramon Foster is indifferent about the presence of Burfict, who's sitting three games for hits the NFL deemed excessive, including several inflicted on the Steelers.
"It don't matter," Foster said. "Because at the end of the day when we block him, he’s just a number, he’s just an X. ... We just have to do our job whether they are there or not."
The good thing about divisional play is that the Steelers will see Burfict in Week 15 in Cincinnati.
The Steelers have downplayed the intensified Bengals rivalry this week, hoping not to provide additional fuel for Cincinnati's locker room. The company line is that the Steelers are playing "AFC North football," which is physical regardless of opponent.
Foster isn't sure Burfict -- who contributed to the injuries of three star Steelers players -- will change his style of play.
"You are who you are," Foster said. "People tried to change the way [Tim] Tebow threw. He went to all the coaching clinics all the way through, and he still went to that sidewinder. ... We'll see. I don't think it will be his game that's changing. As bad as the stuff that he does, he's a really good player.
"If you don’t want your pockets [referring to the fine money] hit like that, you’ve got to change some stuff. But your core of who you are, that intimidation factor that you carry with you, I think that stays with you."