The Cincinnati Bengals travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. What might fans expect from the team in Week 3?
The Cincinnati Bengals have opened the season to mixed results. After an excellent opening weekend win in overtime against the Minnesota Vikings, the franchise followed it up with a more typically disappointing showing in Soldier Field. Cincinnati’s first away game of the season against the Chicago Bears ended with a loss. The franchise failed to build on the momentum of a hard-fought win in Week 1, losing 20-17 against a middling Bears team.
The Bengals never led in the game, trailing 20-3 in the fourth quarter and generally letting fans down in what was a winnable fixture. The team gave quarterback Joe Burrow no protection, giving up multiple sacks and pressures on their 2020 NFL Draft No. 1 pick. Their offensive chemistry from Week 1 dissipated and they looked a bit limp for much of the game on Sunday.
Next up, the team faces a tricky divisional away game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. We look ahead to the weekend and make some bold predictions on the Bengals performance for Week 3.
3. Joe Mixon averages fewer yards per carry than Najee Harris
The 2020 NFL season was dominated by one major headline for the Bengals. Losing Joe Burrow to injury was obviously huge, but another of the franchise’s leading talents also faced bad luck. Running back Joe Mixon injured his foot against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6, leaving him sidelined for the remaining 10 weeks of the regular season. His absence from the offense was a significant issue. Lacking his dynamism and ability to break tackles, the Bengals failed to generate an effective rushing offense for the rest of the year.
Losing the heart of an offense to injuries would be a struggle for any team, let alone this Bengals roster. The franchise is in rebuilding mode (as they always seem to be) and to lose two of their most instrumental pieces doomed the season. This year, both Burrow and Mixon will be looking to build their partnership and improve with reps.
Looking ahead to Sunday, a different young running back will be dealing with the pressure of playing in the NFL. Najee Harris was selected in the first round by the Steelers in the 2021 Draft, and expectations are high. His combination of athleticism and ball skills displayed with Alabama Crimson Tide generated excitement for his debut season. Harris has struggled to meet those expectations coming into Week 3.
With a total of 83 yards in two games, he has not been able to break down opposing defenses effectively. Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is yet to find an easy rhythm with his rookie halfback, and the team will require an effective running game to find success this year.
This Sunday may well be the game that sparks the Steelers’ run game into life. The Bengals’ biggest area of weakness has been their lines on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line has not been able to generate protection for the quarterback and their defensive line has given up almost 200 run yards in two weeks.
Expect Najee Harris to have a big game. I predict that the Steelers will control more time on the clock and run the ball more often than the Bengals, and because of this, Harris will average more running yards per carry than his opposite number Mixon.