‘Run Fits, Knocking Line Of Scrimmage Back’ Key Areas Of Focus For Cam Heyward Against Bengals’ Running Game

Prior to the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 1 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, the focus has been made very clear as to what the defense needs to do compared to last season when Cincinnati swept them in divisional play: stop the run.

Defensive captain Cam Heyward was asked by the media how the defense can do a better job at containing RB Joe Mixon on the ground in 2022, Heyward gave his two cents on how important an initial push at the LOS and maintaining gap integrity will be to have success in this matchup.

“Run fits, knocking the line of scrimmage back,” Heyward said in a press conference to the media which was shown on the team’s YouTube channel. “They do a really good job of them not only being in the, A, B and C gaps, but it transfers out to those C, D, and E gaps that our corners have to fill, our linebackers sometimes have to fill, even sometimes me when I’m in an over front. These are all things we have to be a lot more clean on this year.”

DC Teryl Austin has stressed the importance of fundamentals and getting back to the basics since he took over the job of defensive coordinator, stating that better consistency in doing the little things on a play-to-play basis will help the defense as a whole keep the rushing totals down this season. Thus far, Austin has been pleased with what he’s seen, stating that the unit is noticeably stouter than what the team rolled out last season. Heyward has taken a page out of Austin’s book, stressing the finite details like run fits, getting significant push upfront at the snap, and the understanding that it’s all hands on deck to ensure the opposition doesn’t rip off long runs.

For a defense to be sound against the run, all eleven guys out on the field need to execute their job at the highest level possible. If one member of the defense slips up, that’s when the run defense can get exposed, and the opposing running back can rip off a big gain. Bengals RB Joe Mixon did plenty of that last season, toting the rock 18 times for 90 yards (5.0 YPC) in the team’s first matchup with Pittsburgh in Week 3 before going nuclear in their second matchup where he carried the ball 28 times for 165 yards (5.9 YPC) and two TDs on the ground.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it going to take an army to get the job done against a formidable running back like Mixon who tore them up last year behind an improved offensive line. Heyward understands this going into the Week 1 matchup and is calling for the defense as a whole to be ready to do their jobs and redeem themselves after what they put on tape last season.

“It comes down to just team defense,” Heyward continued on the topic of stopping the run. “Tackling well. They want to get Mixon on DBs. They feel like that’s a win, but we don’t want to get to a point where it’s just one-on-one. We want to corral it, be ready for the cutbacks, and just play physical.”

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