Fairfield native Carman ‘super excited’ to beat Steelers in first NFL start for Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) greets fans after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Pittsburgh. The Bengals won 24-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Caption
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) greets fans after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Pittsburgh. The Bengals won 24-10. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Former Clemson lineman will face his old college teammate Thursday in his second start

Jackson Carman said his first start with the Cincinnati Bengals was “surreal,” especially given the circumstances surrounding it.

With right guard Xavier Su’a-Filo out because of a knee injury, the rookie second-round draft pick and Fairfield High School product got the start Sunday for his NFL offensive debut and helped the Bengals to a 24-10 win over the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers. It was their first win in Pittsburgh since 2015 and most lopsided victory in the series since 1995.

“It was crazy,” Carman said Monday, noting his brother, a cousin and some friends were able to attend. “It was very surreal. It was good to be able to take everything in and good to see everybody and good to experience it and get the dub, so I was super excited. It was awesome.”

The Bengals offensive line helped keep Joe Burrow untouched after he was sacked nine times through the first two games. The Steelers didn’t get a sack or hit on Burrow, but the protection wasn’t just in the passing game.

Joe Mixon ran 18 times for 90 yards, and Bengals coach Zac Taylor said much of the production in the running game came behind Carman. He did enough to earn another chance Thursday at home against the Jaguars (0-3).

“We’ll roll with Jackson this week,” Taylor said Monday. “Xavier (Su’a-Filo) is still day-to-day. But I thought Jackson did a really nice job for us. And again, I know it’s an emotional game for him, too, playing on the road against a divisional opponent. It wasn’t perfect. There were some things that we can continue to improve on. But it was good stuff to build off of. We expected that from Jackson and that’s what he gave us yesterday. That was great to see.”

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Carman admitted to having some butterflies before the game, but said by the second series, he felt more comfortable and “in the zone.” He felt a sense of accomplishment being a part of the victory.

“I definitely felt like I was getting into a much, much better rhythm,” Carman said. “Definitely had like those pre-game butterflies, though, like everyone has them, but it wasn’t in a bad way. It was in a very excited way. I was like, this is a great opportunity. I was ready to step up.”

After returning to Cincinnati, Carman took some time on the drive home to reflect on the past year and all that led up to his special moment getting on the field for his first start.

Carman came a long way in the past few months after getting drafted by the Bengals. He arrived with high expectations for him to contribute right away, especially after quarterback Joe Burrow took several hits last year and eventually tore his ACL when his pocket collapsed on him. Carman started out as the third-string right guard on the first depth chart released this preseason and had much to prove.

“I wasn’t focused on where I was on the depth chart,” he said. “I was just focused on making sure that I was becoming a better player and a better person and learning and making personal growth and not worrying about things I don’t control. I don’t control where I’m at on the depth chart. I just control how I perform in practice.”

There was a level of disappointment not being in the starting lineup to start the season, but getting there in Week 3 was a satisfying reward for hard work, he said.

“The disappointment wasn’t in a negative way,” he said. “It wasn’t disappointment in ‘I’m not the starter, this is unfair.’ It was more self-reflection and knowing that I need to do things to be able to make myself better and just acting on that emotion and being able to use that as fuel to push me to another level.”

Being from the Cincinnati area, Carman especially could appreciate the meaning behind Sunday’s win at Pittsburgh.

Carman now looks forward to a chance to beat his former Clemson quarterback . Trevor Lawrence was the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Jaguars in April and their starting quarterback. He joked he looks forward to beating Lawrence and “holding that over his head,” but Carman has a lot of respect for the player on a personal level.

“Just how consistent he was as a person and a player, just from the time he got there to when he left,” Carman said of Lawrence. “He was just always on top of it, always a good person, always a good teammate, always on time and doing the right thing. It was a great example to everyone who was around. That’s really hard, especially at that level, you know what I’m saying, that he was at in college. I have a lot of respect for that.”

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