The Cincinnati Bengals' offense earned 19 total yards in the second half of Sunday's 29-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Running back Joe Mixon has an idea about how the Bengals' offense could have gotten on track: Give him the ball.
"It's frustrating. I feel like I'm seeing [Le'Veon Bell] got the ball 35 times, and I got it seven in the first half and then don't touch the ball again," Mixon said, via Katherine Terrell of ESPN. "[Jeremy] Hill only got one touch in the second half. It's frustrating to us running backs. We feel like we're in the room and we feel like we're part of the offense. If it worked in the first half, why not do it in the second?"
Mixon had two catches in the second half, but zero rushes after going for 48 yards on his seven first-half totes. Jeremy Hill had just one second-half carry. Giovani Bernard took two totes. Meanwhile, Andy Dalton dropped back 17 times in the final two frames.
Coach Marvin Lewis curtly responded when asked about Mixon.
"He was there in the third quarter," Lewis said. "Whatever plays are called are called."
Mixon played 22 plays, seven of which came in the second half, per Next Gen Stats. Bernard saw 23 snaps, while Hill played a total of 15.
Game script played a part in the lack of running game. When the Bengals got down double digits, they abandoned the ground attack. While Cincy's offense had been better since offensive coordinator Bill Lazor took over, they looked lost Sunday versus Pittsburgh's smothering defense. A.J. Green was similarly shut down, earning just three catches for 41 yards. He didn't have a reception after the first quarter.
Mixon pointed to Le'Veon Bell for Pittsburgh, who had 35 carries and three receptions, as the type of load the rookie thinks he can handle.
"Me personally, I feel like I can do way more than [Bell] did. Like I said, I only had seven carries. I can't showcase nothing if I don't get the ball. There's nothing else I can say," Mixon said.
We'll pump the breaks on Mixon getting a Lev Bell-type of workload, but it should be clear by now the rookie is the Bengals' best back. He's shifty in space, has great vision, and hits the hole. His ability to make people miss and fall forward is advantageous behind a struggling offensive line. Mixon, however, needs to work on his pass protection if he wants to play more snaps (and by relation get more touches).
It's fair to wonder if it's time for Lewis to thin out his running back rotation by trading Jeremy Hill, similar to what the New Orleans Saints did with Adrian Peterson. Paring down the rotation will allow the team's best back to be on the field more, and provide some consistency for an up-and-down offense.