Cincinnati Bengals: No stage too big for Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins

Cincinnati Bengals, Tee Higgins (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals, Tee Higgins (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Cincinnati Bengals rookies Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins thrive in the bright lights.

Before hearing their names called by the Cincinnati Bengals in April, Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins lined up on opposing sidelines ahead of the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Burrow was aiming to cap off a perfect season with LSU with a win on one of the biggest stages in college sports.

Higgins, meanwhile, had already gotten a taste of championship perfection the year prior as Clemson’s star wide receiver looked to help his team repeat. In the 2019 title game against Alabama, Higgins hauled in three catches for 81 yards, which included a leaping touchdown grab. His score solidified soon to be 15-0 lead over the Crimson Tide.

As Clemson and LSU faced off, Higgins rose to the occasion again with a spectacular 36-yard reverse touchdown run to give Clemson a 17-7 lead over LSU, though an injury limited his time later in the game. However, 463 yards and five touchdowns later, Burrow had produced another extravagant performance to help bring LSU their first national title since 2007.

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Now Burrow and Higgins are the top two picks from the Bengals’ 2020 NFL Draft class. Their name recognition alone has brought the fanbase a great deal of optimism — and why not? Burrow was a slam dunk first overall selection with Ohio roots and a championship pedigree. Higgins was a top-tier receiver at a top tier program who also won a title. What more could fans ask for?

Is it time for the primetime Cincinnati Bengals?

As a fan, there’s a certain comfort level knowing the team’s players are not averse to primetime, to the big lights. From an honest perspective, the Bengals have not been a strong team under the lights for a long time. Since 2006, they are an abysmal 0-11 on Sunday Night Football. No team under the same circumstances comes anywhere close to that level of futility.

The new-look Bengals will have to earn their primetime slots over the next few years. Barring a flexed schedule, Cincinnati will not play in a Sunday Night Football game in 2020. With that being said, the biggest and most important hurdle will be taking advantage of those high viewership games when they do get them again.

From a player perspective, let’s take Deshaun Watson as an example. The sports world gushed over his game-winning championship drive against Alabama in the 2017 title game — and for good reason. One of the immediate benefits tied to his draft stock had to do with his calm demeanor under pressure.

The Houston Texans might have their flaws but Watson shouldn’t take the blame for any of those. He’s turned them into a playoff-caliber team again with some impressive highlights in high-stress situations. That’s the kind of translation from college to the NFL fans want to see from both Burrow and Higgins.

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So as we inch closer to seeing these two former college superstars join forces for an NFL tiger-striped team, keep their big-game experience in mind. Hopefully, the next time Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins play in a championship game, they’ll get to share the same podium.