CINCINNATI -- Bengals running backs Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill are in a competition for touches, which is a situation that could easily strain a relationship. But Hill, whose carries dropped off significantly after Mixon was drafted in the second round, instead can relate to some of the things he's going through.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Mixon should show "maturity" after the rookie publicly voiced frustrations after not getting a second-half carry in a loss to the Steelers on Sunday. Sporadic playing time was something Hill also went through as a rookie while competing with the older Giovani Bernard for carries.
Hill went through a four-game stretch in 2014 when he only had 21 carries for 77 yards. It wasn't until the second half of the season that he put together five 100-yard games. Even now, with only eight carries in the past two games, Hill has been reluctant to voice a public opinion.
"That's just the way I am as a player. I don't really get involved in that kind of stuff. For me, it's just about helping the team win football games. Everything else will take care of itself," said Hill, who is in the final season of his contract. "Obviously when you're not winning and you're losing, it's easy to get frustrated. But I've had the highest of highs in this league and the lowest of lows...
"For me, I just stay at a happy medium whether I get three or four carries or I get 20. I've got to go out there and do my job. Nothing changes. If you start to get distracted by other things, it can wear on you. Obviously Joe, it's his rookie year. Everything is his first time experiencing it, first time playing Pittsburgh, first time doing everything. The more and more he does it, the more experience he gets, he'll be just fine."
Hill said he and Mixon talk frequently and have discussed what happened following the Steelers game.
"We talk about it all the time. When you only have 50 plays, it's hard to get drives sustained, especially in the second half. It's hard to get those carries. That's just something you have to understand as a player," Hill said. "As coaches, obviously you want to run the ball and keep their offense off the field, so obviously it's not like we're purposely not trying to run the ball, it's just kind of that the flow of the game went that way. The more experience he has and the more he plays, he'll understand that."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Mixon is averaging 3.2 yards per rush, which ranks 42nd among 48 qualified running backs. His 1.3 yards before contact per rush ranks 44th among qualified running backs. But the stats don't quite tell the whole story.
Mixon has shown improvement in the past two games and was averaging 6.9 yards per carry against the Steelers before the Bengals went away from the run. He broke off two runs of more than 15 yards. "We needed those for sure, confidence-wise," said running backs coach Kyle Caskey.
It would be ideal timing if the Bengals could iron out their running back rotation with the Colts coming into town. Indianapolis gave up 122 yards to Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon last week. Yeldon is Jacksonville's third-string tailback behind Leonard Fournette and Chris Ivory and had not had a 100-yard game since his rookie season in 2015.
A week earlier, Titans running back Derrick Henry rushed for 131 yards against the Colts' run defense, which is ranked 26th and gives up an average of 124.7 yards per game.
“We have to a do a good job ... of handling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football," Lewis said. "That’s really important on Sunday.”