One of the most frequent topics that I talk about when writing about the Cincinnati Bengals is the fact that the team has managed to draft a lot of players that Pittsburgh Steelers fans, including myself, wanted to see their own team add to the roster, whether they jumped in front of the Steelers or Pittsburgh simply looked past them.
Well, a pair of those players showed up well for the Bengals’ defense in their last preseason game, particularly second-year edge defender Carl Lawson, who recorded two and a half sacks against the Buffalo Bills. 2016 fourth-round draft pick Andrew Billings—remember him?—also contributed a sack and a half.
While the Steelers-related storyline is of tertiary note, the real important story here is that the Bengals are beginning to get some significant contributions from young contributors that they have been waiting on for a while. And that includes 2017 first-round wide receiver, who caught a long bomb for a touchdown on Cincinnati’s first play of the game.
Lawson was productive in limited playing time last season, the Bengals believing that he is going to be a more successful contributor, at least at this point in his career, if he is only played sparingly. To date, they don’t appear to see him as a full-time starter.
As for Billings, his road to contributing was delayed after suffering a season-ending injury prior to the start of this rookie season. He didn’t get the opportunity to offer much on the field in 2017, but is hoping to have a much bigger role in year three.
At the moment, he is scheduled to be the starter along the inside of Cincinnati’s defensive front next to Geno Atkins. Many non-affiliated football scouts rated him as a top-30 player in that draft class, but he ended up falling all the way into the fourth round because teams did not view him as a penetrating interior defender who could offer much of a pass rusher.
We should find out whether or not he deserved to be drafted higher than where he ended up getting taken starting this season as he actually gets meaningful playing time. Of course, that is not going to mean that the Steelers will have erred in drafting Javon Hargrave that year, who has had a very promising first two seasons.
The Bengals really need these young players to start being major contributors, however, considering the fact that it’s been a while since they’ve been to the playoffs. And it’s been over 10,000 days since they’ve actually won a postseason game.