‘A Big Part of What We Do Going Forward’ – Bengals Rookie Andrei Iosivas Earning More Opportunities

Cincinnati Bengals rookie Andrei Iosivas had career highs in catches, yards, and targets against the Pittsburgh Steelers to earn more opportunities.

Opportunities have been sparse for Cincinnati Bengals rookie Andrei Iosivas this season, which he knew would be the case coming into the NFL as a sixth-round pick out of the Ivy League and joining one of the best wide receiver groups in the league.

Iosivas’ focus has been on making every chance, no matter how limited, count. And he’s certainly done that, with 33% of his receptions resulting in touchdowns through his first 14 games while playing on the four main special-teams units.

Bengals Employing New Weapon in Rookie Andrei Iosivas

But Saturday night in Pittsburgh, Iosivas’ role flipped with Ja’Marr Chase out due to a shoulder injury.

Iosivas played 46 snaps on offense, nearly doubling his previous high of 26 in Week 5 when Tee Higgins was out with a fractured rib. The Bengals valued his presence so much on offense that they took him off special teams completely, something they did not do in the win against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Princeton grad responded with the most productive game of his rookie season, setting career highs in catches (four), receiving yards (36), and targets (eight).

“I thought I played well,” Iosivas said before adding a “but.”

“I had that one drop, the curl that I wish I could have back,” he added. “But other than that, I didn’t have too many mental errors and did what I could to try to help us win.”

Iosivas could find himself in a similar role Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs as Chase’s status remains unclear. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said Sunday the team would see how the week goes for Chase, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Week 15 win against the Minnesota Vikings.

MORE: Bengals News After a Bad Night in Pittsburgh

Three of Iosivas’ four catches produced first downs. Quarterback Jake Browning went to him for a seven-yard gain to convert the team’s first third down of the game. Iosivas also had a 12-yard catch on a 2nd-and-6 play in the first quarter and an 11-yard gain on 2nd-and-6 in the third.

It was an incompletion that might have been Iosivas’ most impressive “catch” of the game. Originally ruled a 22-yard reception at the Pittsburgh 12-yard line in the third quarter, Iosivas made an acrobatic grab and got both feet down inbounds.

His left hand, however, hit out of bounds just before the second foot touched down. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin challenged the ruling and won.

“I’m more focused on my feet in those situations, but I thought it was simultaneous,” Iosivas said. “I’m surprised they overturned it.”

So were Taylor and his assistants who monitor the replays in the booth. The Bengals didn’t rush to the line to get off another play, and that delay enabled Tomlin to throw the red challenge flag.

“He made a great catch on the sidelines that I should have just tempo’d it and snapped the ball,” Taylor admitted the day after the loss.

MORE: 4th-and-Inches Pass Emblematic of Bengals’ Inability To Get Physical

Iosivas’ two touchdown catches this year came in back-to-back games. There was a three-yarder in Week 7 against the Seahawks and, after the bye, a two-yarder in Week 9 at San Francisco after the original play broke down.

“The Seattle game, that one was meant for me, but the San Francisco game, that was just a scramble,” Iosivas said. “I just feel like balls will find me if I’m open, and I’m just blessed to be in this position.”

Taylor made it sound as though Iosivas will continue to have an increased role Sunday at Kansas City, whether that is due to him not expecting Chase to play or the fact that Iosivas has earned more time even if the superstar returns.

“This week will be a totally different challenge. They’re going to put their hands all over you, and it won’t be as much the free release stuff that he was getting,” Taylor said.

“But he made (the most of) the opportunities that were there. He did some good things and positive things that we’re going to continue to build on because he’ll continue to be a big part of what we do going forward.”

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