One of those back-and-forths took place after the two AFC North rivals faced off in Week 7. That was rookie running back Joe Mixon’s first taste of the series, a game in which he ran for 48 yards on just seven carries. He also caught three passes for 20 yards and, frankly, was Cincinnati’s best player on offense.
But for whatever reason, the Bengals didn’t give Mixon a single carry in the second half, and the Bengals failed to score another point in what turned into a 29-14 loss. After the loss, Mixon expressed frustration in not getting the ball more in the second half, something that the Steelers did with their star running back in Le’Veon Bell.
"Me personally, I feel like I can do way more than [Bell] did,” said Mixon after the game. “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."
That outcry for more carries led to Bell making a comment on Mixon the following week. Bell also criticized Mixon because he felt the rookie was mimicking the Steelers veteran’s first-down celebrations and game-day accessories.
“For someone who feels they can do ‘way more’ than I can, sure seems like you wanna be me,” Bell said. “Trying to mimic my run style, my first-down celebration... now you wear an arm sleeve on your left arm and went to the mismatch gloves too?! Lol. Just change your number from 28 to 26 while you're at it.”
That led to Mixon changing those things after Bell’s outcry, according to Dayton Daily News.
“I looked up to him,” said Mixon. “I wasn’t tripping. If he doesn’t want me doing it, then I ain’t going to do it. I’m going out there to win the football game. I’m not going out there to figure out what another man is thinking.”
There’s nothing wrong with having a player to look up to. Heck, Mixon was compared to Bell by a lot of draft gurus, and we’ve already seen the similarities. It’s pretty odd that the Steelers running back didn’t understand that NFL players, like Mixon, follow his lead and that he’d vocally oppose it and call Mixon out for it.
But in a rivalry this heated, it’s probably best not to mimic too much that a fellow rival does. As such, Mixon won’t be looking to copy Bell going forward. That is, other than becoming one of the NFL’s best running back.
Have seen every Joe Mixon snap on film this season and am 100% sure he'll be regarded by all as a top-5 RB by this time next year.— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) November 29, 2017
Update: Bell had this to say today...