Scouting Report: Bengals Offense Still Successful Minus Ja’Marr Chase

As we’ve been doing for several years now, we’ll break down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ opponent each week, telling you what to expect from a scheme and individual standpoint. Like last year, Josh Carney and I will cover the opposing team’s defense. I will focus on scheme, Josh on the players.

Today, scouting the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense.


Bengals Running Game

Still led by Joe Mixon, playing at about 70% of the team’s snaps. He isn’t the league’s most efficient back but is still a good one and his receiving chops are underrated. On the year, the Bengals as a unit are averaging just 4.0 yards per carry, 27th in the league. Their 20 runs of 10+ yards are near the bottom of the league at 29th and Mixon is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, though he leads the team with six rushing touchdowns. Samaje Perine is the backup and seeing the other 30% of snaps.

Schematically, they’re a power-heavy team that likes to pull to the boundary and run tosses to the field. Examples of both. For their gap scheme, they can pull just the BSG or pull multiple linemen/tight ends on their counter schemes.

They will use a 6th offensive lineman in Hakeem Adeniji, #77, too, so be aware of him. Their offense does not use a fullback and most often don’t have a tight end lined up in the backfield. They’re more likely to use a tight off-ball to pull across the formation instead.

They aren’t a heavy run team on first down and have easily thrown more than run on 1st and 10. Their offense likes to be aggressive on first down and take shots.

It’s worth noting that while Mixon handles the majority of the load, WR Trent Taylor got involved in the run game last week, seeing an expanded role with Ja’Marr Chase out. He had three carries in the first half while the game was competitive, with three jet runs to the field. Alert the jet out of a stacked side with a nasty/reduced split. Examples.

Some other offensive stats. The Bengals are 6th in points per game this season at 25.3 but even without Chase, they’ve put up points as of late. They’ve recorded 30+ points in three of their last four games including a 40-burger on the Carolina Panthers in Week 9 prior to last week’s bye. They’ve only turned the ball over ten times this year, tied for 8th-fewest in the league, which is pretty good considering they gave it away five times in Week One against the Steelers. They’re +3 in turnover differential, also tied for 8th-best in the league. Situationally, they’re an excellent team, 3rd on third down (49.6%), and 4th in red zone play (72.4%).

Bengals Passing Offense

Joe Burrow, of course, is still this team’s starting quarterback. Still playing great football, he’s completed 70% of his passes with 18 touchdowns to six interceptions, only two since the opener loss. As has been the theme for his career, he’s been under siege, sacked 30 times this season. He’s been sacked at least once every game and at least three times in five of nine games this season.

Brandon Allen is the backup. WR Tyler Boyd has thrown one pass this season, Week 5 against the Miami Dolphins. It was a bit of an odd one, 3rd and 11 on the Bengals’ own 24 on a deep ball complete to Ja’Marr Chase.

As a team, they’re averaging 7.7 yards per attempt, 7th-best in football. Normally that comes with a lower completion percentage but they sit in second place there at 70.3%, only trailing the Seattle Seahawks. Their 18 passing TDs are top five in football while their six INTs are tied for 7th-least and again, most of that damage occurred in Week 1 against the Steelers. Burrow has just two picks over his last 280 attempts.

As a team, they have 29 completions of 20+ yards, tied for 14th-most in the league this season. Despite missing the last two games with a hip injury, Chase still leads the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. His status is very much in doubt as of this writing. But it’s a quality receiving room with Tee Higgins pulling down 41 receptions and Tyler Boyd right behind with 37. Boyd is no longer the third down machine he once was with just ten such grabs in 2022. Burrow and the Bengals spread the ball around well with five players having at least two receiving touchdowns. RB Joe Mixon has been a threat the last two games with a long catch down the right sideline in Week 8 and a great scramble drill TD in Week 9. They’re flexing him out more this year.

Overall, when Burrow has a 1v1 opportunity, he takes it and trusts his guys to make a play. If he gets single high, if he gets a backside matchup in a 3×1 look he likes, he’ll at least eye and often throw it. Some examples.

If Pittsburgh wants to play a lot of MOFC/single-high, corners will have to win their matchups. Could see more two-high looks to mitigate that, though the Steelers will have a lighter box to stop the run.

There are plenty of Hank/sticks concepts on early downs to get quick wins, turning 1st and 10 into 2nd and 5 or 2nd and 4 into a first down. They’ll run it in a couple of ways with snag/spot concepts or just essentially “all curls.”

They also run smash/smash-seam concepts, a hi-lo read with a curl/flat route and a corner route to try and stress a corner. Works best against Cover 2.

Last thing. For what it’s worth, in shotgun they have small splits between LT and LG and large splits between RG and RT. Wouldn’t run stunts to the left side. Might be hard to gain a gap. I’d try the right side though.

Josh’s Individual Report

For the first time since the season opener, it’s Bengals week, Steelers fans!

Seemingly healthy once against, the Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for an explosive Cincinnati Bengals offense led by star quarterback Joe Burrow knowing that they simply dominated him in Week 1, sacking him seven times and forcing five turnovers in a 23-20 win in overtime.

That type of dominance is unlikely to happen again, especially against a quarterback the caliber of Burrow, but the history is there for the black and gold, and the Bengals are missing star receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who is out another week with a hip injury.

After struggling in his absence against the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football, the Bengals seemed to figure it out more in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers, getting the football into the hands of standout running back Joe Mixon a bit more.

Now, coming out of the bye week, the Bengals likely figured out a way to get by for another week without Chase.

They’ll have to lean heavily on Burrow and Mixon once again.

Good news for Cincinnati, because those two can handle a heavy workload.

Burrow, for my money, is a Top 5 quarterback in the league. He has terrific pocket presence, throws an accurate, catchable ball and anticipates very well. Add in his ability to move in the pocket, buy time with his legs and pick up yardage on his own, he’s the complete package.


This might not be much, but this is one of my favorite throws of the year from Burrow due to his ability to throw Mixon open on the scramble drill, resulting in the big gain against the Falcons.

Even when he’s under duress, he never panics and trusts his ability to not only buy time, but make any throw necessary.

While Chase is a big, big loss for the Bengals, Cincinnati is still loaded from a playmakers perspective with the likes of Mixon, wide receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd and tight end Hayden Hurst.

Boyd has come on strong in recent weeks, becoming that big-play receiver out of the slot once again, which makes the Bengals exceptionally difficult to defend.


He’s come through in recent weeks with major splash plays for the Bengals, including this 60-yard bomb from Burrow on the first drive of the game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Boyd isn’t the flashiest and doesn’t have the best speed in the world. He just knows how to get open though and has great hands, allowing him to thrive in his role when called upon.


Quietly, Higgins remains one of the best contested-catch receivers in football.

Like Boyd, he’s not the fastest receiver overall at the position. In fact, his 40-time may have scared some teams off. That said, Higgins is a physical receiver, one that can fight through contact and can make big plays on the football in the air, giving Burrow the confidence to throw it up to his playmaker.


Without Chase in the lineup, expect the Bengals to poke and prod the Steelers vertically with Higgins throughout the matchup in an effort to get him into a position to win.

Behind Higgins and Boyd, Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan and Trent Taylor will get some run in three- and four-receiver sets in an effort to spread out the defense.

At tight end, Hurst has had a really strong bounce-back season for the Bengals. Signed as a free agent, Hurst has taken advantage of the space in the middle of the field in the Bengals’ offense, hauling in 38 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns to date.

He’s become a reliable, chain-moving weapon for the Bengals.

Mitchell Wilcox and Devin Asiasi back up Hurst. Wilcox has done a nice job as a blocker in recent weeks, while Asiasi continues to work back from a back injury. He can stretch the seam when he’s healthy.

Up front, after throwing a bunch of money at the offensive line in an effort to protect Burrow, the group got off to a rough start against the Steelers. Since then though, they’ve settled in, allowing Burrow the time and space to operate, while also finding their footing in the run game.

Here’s how I expect them to line up left to right on Sunday:

LT — Jonah Williams
LG —  Cordell Volson
C — Ted Karras
RG — Alex Cappa
RT — La’el Collins

Volson, as I’m sure many of you are aware by now, is one of my favorite linemen in the NFL. He was a huge draft crush of mine coming out of North Dakota State. He dominated at the East-West Shrine Bowl, where I was in attendance in Las Vegas, and really stood out making the position switch from tackle to guard.

He’s had his struggles at times in the NFL, but he’s settling in nicely between Williams and Karras.

Williams and Collins will have their hands full with T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, while Volson will again have his hands full against Cameron Heyward. The group is gelling nicely though and is starting to take over in the ground game.

Getting the ball to Mixon is a key to that.


When the Bengals are at their best, they are a physical group that gets after people running the football. Tremendous job here by Volson and Williams pulling left to right, creating a huge seam for Mixon.

Volson’s probably the best athlete up front too for Cincinnati.

He’s really starting to show signs of why he was highly sought after.


On special teams, the Bengals have had a bit of a hiccup there this season.

Kicker Evan McPherson isn’t as dominant as he was during his rookie season. He’s already missed four kicks on the season, though he does have a 59-yarder to his credit. It won’t be easy kicking inside Acrisure Stadium Sunday either.

Punter Kevin Huber is starting to show his age a bit. He’s had issues with punts in recent weeks and is average per punt is down roughly three yards from his career average.

The last time these two teams met, long snapper Clark Harris suffered a bicep injury, forcing the Bengals to turn to Wilcox as the long snapper. It didn’t go well and the Steelers benefitted from it.

Rookie Cal Adomitis is now the Bengals long snapper and might be the guy long-term for the Bengals. He’s provided stability for an operation that was so good last season.

In the return game, Trent Taylor handles the punts, while backup running back Chris Evans handles kickoffs. Evans is a game-breaker. He’s dangerous every time he touches the football.

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