CINCINNATI – You can’t blame Joe Mixon if he looks across the field Sunday and sees a football culture that he would one day like to see in Cincinnati.
He said as much on Thursday, when speaking of what the Bengals will be going up against inside Heinz Field.
Mixon has had some success running against Pittsburgh in the past. He had 13 carries for 105 yards on Dec. 30, 2018, in a 16-13 loss at Heinz Field. In six games, he’s run the ball for 5.5 yards a clip. He’s also never beaten the Steelers, missing both games in 2020 with the foot injury and going 0-6 since coming into the league in 2017.
“To be honest, I feel like with a team like Pittsburgh, you go in there, it’s a hostile environment,” Mixon said. “I think that their crowd, they come with great energy for them. They do a hell of a job with supporting their players and things like that. And another thing is they’re very physical, so at the end of the day, we’ve got to go in there and match the intensity. We’ve got to go in there, we’ve got to strike and once we strike, we just got to keep on building and going forward.
“But at the same time, I know it’s gonna be a physical game. I know that’s how they play football. We play football like that, and I know it will be a physical game, and we’ll get down and dirty and it probably will go to the wire, and it’s all about who comes up with that last play. So, I look forward to it. I know they look forward to it. And it’s a big divisional game. We got to come out on top, and we got to do whatever we can to prepare to come out on top. So yeah, I look forward to it.”
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) September 23, 2021
What’s most interesting about Mixon’s comments is they highlight exactly why the Bengals, without Joe Burrow and Mixon himself last December, were able to physically manhandle the Steelers and lay a 27-17 beat down on them inside Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night football.
This Steelers team figures to be primed and ready for some sort of revenge, led by Ben Roethlisberger. The Steeler returned to practice on Thursday and will almost certainly start against the Bengals with a pectoral strain.
What the Bengals need Sunday is a good dose of fearlessness and attitude. The Bengals offense needs to wake up and show it can attack a Pittsburgh defense built to attack opposing offenses. The Bengals obviously cannot afford a repeat of the four-turnover meltdown that derailed them in Chicago last Sunday.
This is where Mixon and Burrow need to step up and lead by example.
“To be honest, it’s really just a natural thing,” Mixon told me. “I mean, (Burrow) might say something, or I might say something. At the end of the day, we know what we have to do as professionals to come out and be ready and how to prepare for a game and also make in-game adjustments, so the players, they always look up to us, so we got to do our part as a captain and have them boys rally behind us.
“So, with that being said, it’s pretty much, once you make a big play, then another one, and then you make another one, you make another one, keep on stacking them, and that stuff, it’s infectious. So, at the end of the day, we got to just keep on building, getting better, going one play at a time, and just trying to do whatever we can to be in the best position to put points on the board.”
It’s the stacking of the plays together that the Bengals have had incredible difficulty with this season, and even going back to training camp and preseason. The Bengals have shown glimpses of what they can be. But the consistency across all levels of their offense just hasn’t been there.
Burrow and Mixon are the foundation of this offense. Both need to be threats for any defense to be remotely scared of what the Bengals could do.
“You typically see (Burrow) come out there and if he sees something he wants to make an adjustment, or he feels like, you got to do something this much more, he’ll let you know and tell you,” Mixon said. “At the end of the day, most of us, we all know what we have to do. That’s just the nature of us, playing this game. We know what we have to do.
“It’s just all about executing the little details, and that’s what it comes down to and that’s what we got practice for and that’s what we got to get better for the game coming Sunday. So, we will be ready come Sunday. I know that.”