Running back Joe Mixon was a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but it was widely believed that he would go even higher if not for his off-field concerns—which were significant enough that some outlets in Cincinnati protested when the Bengals decided to draft him.
Since coming into the league, however, he has been a dynamic player who has done a lot with a little, relatively speaking, as the Bengals’ offensive line has not been good—nor has the team been, generally, particularly on offense.
Coming off of a mostly lost season in which he missed 10 games due to injury, Mixon has gotten off to a pretty quick start, already with nearly 200 rushing yards through two games on 49 carries with a touchdown, though he hasn’t done a lot yet in the passing game. But he’s shown more than enough that Pittsburgh Steelers defenders have taken note.
“We’ve definitely got to cancel out the run”, outside linebacker Melvin Ingram told reporters yesterday. “Joe Mixon is one of the best running backs in this league, and you’ve got to give respect where respect’s due. And I think by doing that, you’ve got to cancel out that phase of the game. It’s gonna take all 11 to do it”.
While it’s not a lot to go by, and they haven’t yet played rushing teams, the Steelers do come into Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a top 10 rushing defense. Their 169 yards allowed through two weeks ranks exactly 10th, and they have only allowed 3.4 yards per attempt, ranking sixth. They have not given up a rushing score.
But on the flip side, they rank 29th in passing yards allowed, and Cincinnati has talent in the passing game. Quarterback Joe Burrow is in just his second season after being selected first overall in the draft. They have a top-five wide receiver in rookie Ja’Marr Chase, who has a college connection with Burrow, and a pair of second-round talents in veteran Tyler Boyd and second-year Tee Higgins.
It would be nice if they can cancel out the run, certainly, but they also need to do something about that passing offense. Getting Joe Haden back at cornerback will be a step in the right direction, and linebacker Devin Bush as well.