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Mark Madden

Mark Madden: NFL players try to talk themselves into anything

| Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, 7:12 p.m.
Steelers running back James Conner runs past Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the second half Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati.
Steelers running back James Conner runs past Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the second half Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in Cincinnati.

After their Cincinnati team lost 28-21 to the Steelers on Sunday, Dre Kirkpatrick and Tyler Boyd insisted the Bengals are better than the Steelers.

They would have a difficult time arguing that case in court. The Steelers have beaten the Bengals seven straight times and 18 of 21 games played at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.

But words are disposable, even more so in sports.

Consider blabbermouth Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville’s All-Pro cornerback. Before the season, Ramsey lambasted a host of NFL quarterbacks. He called Buffalo’s Josh Allen “trash,” Atlanta’s Matt Ryan “overrated,” the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff “average to above average,” Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck “not that good” and Ben Roethlisberger “decent at best.”

Ramsey also said he could play in the NHL if he skated for six months. What a dope.

Most of what Ramsey said is silly, but it starts conversation. (This is the business I’ve chosen.) Since we moan when athletes ladle out clichés, speak blandly or don’t comment at all, we’re told we should be happy when they spew nonsense under the heading of “honesty.” (I am, believe me.) Ramsey just talks and talks.

But what happens when Ramsey plays like “trash” — well, “decent at best” — and his team turns out to be “overrated”?

That looks like the case in Jacksonville. The Jaguars were picked by many to win the AFC South. But they’re 3-3 and got blown out by Dallas, 40-7, on Sunday.

Jacksonville was supposed to have the NFL’s best defense, and the Jaguars do rank No. 2 yardage-wise. But they stand 24th in scoring defense. That’s a bit inconvenient when games are decided by points, not yards, but certainly inevitable when you’ve allowed 70 points in the last two games (both losses).

It would be interesting to hear what Ramsey has to say about this two-week implosion, but we didn’t. When confronted by media after the rout at the hands of Dallas, Ramsey’s face went blank and he gave brief, inconsequential answers.

If Ramsey is going to run his big yapper and belittle others by way of self-promotion and chest-thumping, he owes an explanation when he and his teammates stink. But none was forthcoming. Ramsey is the worst kind of blowhard and phony.

I wonder what Allen, Ryan, Goff, Luck and Roethlisberger think now that Ramsey’s Jaguars look like they’re “not that good”?

Ramsey is hardly one of a kind. The Steelers have their version in Antonio Brown, who practically drips with manic depression. Brown plays it different, though. When times are good, he talks and smiles. When they’re bad, it’s the media’s fault. The media wants Brown to fail. (I have bigger concerns.)

Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict, another gasbag, fell silent with the media after Sunday’s loss. He did tell reporters to “get your (backside) out of our locker room” while Kirkpatrick was being interviewed. But it wasn’t the media that lost to the Steelers (again).

Yinzer Nation hates Burfict, and with good reason.

But James Harrison isn’t far behind. Steelers fans just romanticize what Harrison did. They would love Burfict if he wore black and gold. (I wouldn’t.)

Like Burfict, Harrison menaced the media. What brave guys.

The best part about the Steelers’ mastery of Cincinnati is the way they’ve manhandled Burfict. JuJu Smith-Schuster laid Burfict out with a crack-back block last season. Vance McDonald and James Conner turned him into roadkill Sunday.

The Bengals had two legit beefs Sunday: While Kirkpatrick did commit holding to give the Steelers fresh downs on their winning drive, the call was a bit chintzy at that stage. Justin Hunter’s pick to spring Brown had network TV’s ex-refs arguing among themselves as to whether it was offensive pass interference.

Both decisions went Pittsburgh’s way. They weren’t bad calls but were bad breaks for Cincinnati.

Kirkpatrick and Boyd are wrong. The Bengals aren’t better than the Steelers. But the bigger the lie, the more it will be believed. Unless you saw Sunday’s game.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

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