Joe Mixon, Joe Burrow Eye Steelers in Opener

Joe Mixon, Joe Burrow Eye Steelers in Opener
Joe Mixon, Joe Burrow Eye Steelers in Opener

BATES BULLISH ON DEFENSE: Two things the media has barely mentioned when it comes to the 2022 Bengals. Mixon and the defense.

Consider that the box is checked.

Free safety Jessie Bates III, making his Bengals-leading 64th start Sunday, is all looking to return from a defense that barely allowed 20 points per four playoff games.

“I think we can be pretty darn good, honestly,” Bates said before Thursday’s practice. “We talk about it as a group. How we’re good. How we got hot. I think every single play, being elite every single play, I think that’s the next step we’ve got to get to. We’ve got really smart guys, people who know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. We will be much better this year.”

Bates didn’t sign his franchise tender until two weeks ago, but teammates and coaches rave about how good he looks. He admits to joking with his teammates about his healthy leg and reminded the media that he had his best year in 2020, when there was barely a training camp and no preseason games.

It turns out the only rust he’s had to knock off is from the celebration.

“It was fun watching drills and filming back in training camp, seeing how excited they get, instilling some of the things we’ve always done,” Bates said. “‘Money on the floor’ and stuff, when I think about what our handshake is going to be again this year. I think I’m a little behind on that. I feel really excited. We’ve got a really good group of people. And we have some of the younger guys coming up that are going to contribute. It’s going to be fun. We’ve got to keep them updated on the ‘Money on the floor’ celebration and stuff. .”

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EYE ON MITCH: The offense knows it will have to keep an eye on two of the league’s best pass rushers on Sunday, Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward and TJ Watt. Bates also knows what he’s getting from Mitch Trubisky, who is making his first Steelers start at quarterback in place of Ben Roethlisberger.

“I expect a lot out of the pocket. Obviously, with Big Ben, I feel like he’s a very veteran quarterback, so a lot of the play calls were called from the offensive coordinator, but he had a lot of flexibility to be able to to change conversations,” Bates said. “Change them to RPOs. It’s hard to watch film from last year and the years before against the Steelers because Big Ben had a lot to say. But I think with a younger quarterback that can move around, we’ll see a little more boots , boot throwbacks just things like that you have to be aware of.”

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