The Pittsburgh Steelers are facing the Cincinnati Bengals this week, and they can’t afford to take any opponent for granted—especially not one who was able to beat them with a backup quarterback a year ago. And a backup running back, as well.
Joe Mixon only played in six games last year due to injury, which resulted in him missing both of the Bengals’ games against the Steelers. Those who haven’t faced him might not know yet, but he commands the respect of the veterans on the defense, such as T.J. Watt, who can’t understand why he isn’t talked about more.
“I think he’s just an all-around really talented running back. I don’t know why he seems to be overlooked, but he is a little bit”, Watt said on Friday. “He’s earned my respect. He’s earned the respect of every guy in this building. He’s an all-purpose back. He can pass protect, he can scat out of the backfield, he can run between the tackles, outside the tackles”.
A second-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2017, Mixon has done a lot with a little in his four-plus seasons, behind rather suspect offensive lines. He has rushed for 3555 yards in 52 career games for the Bengals, including 43 starts, with 21 touchdowns. He’s also added 134 receptions for another 1033 yards and five more touchdowns. And he’s hard to bring down no matter how he gets the ball.
“He’s always been a tough tackle every time we’ve faced him”, Watt told reporters. “That’s what we were telling the rookies last year, the young guys, that we didn’t really get to face him. It’s for sure gonna be challenge for us just because he’s a true multi-purpose running back”.
Mixon and the Bengals were able to run with success in week one against the Minnesota Vikings, but had a harder time of it this past week against the Chicago Bears. The Steelers enter this one with a top-five run defense, but with a small sample size, and the injuries mounting, it doesn’t mean much.
With Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Carlos Davis, and Alex Highsmith all sidelined, possibly with T.J. Watt as well, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Steelers’ run defense is going to look like, but they certainly can’t let the Bengals run on them and open up the passing game.
Mixon has one 100-yard game against the Steelers, coming in the 2018 season finale. He totaled 105 rushing yards on just 13 carries, but the Bengals lost that one, 15-13 (of course, they’ve lost every game against the Steelers in his career in which he’s played).