Despite antics, Bengals' Lewis says rookie Hill has been 'very mature'

Despite antics, Bengals' Lewis says rookie Hill has been 'very mature'
Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill runs the ball as Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99) defends during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. (Ken Blaze / USA Today Sports)

Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Jeremy Hill tends to be brash and bold in his interviews, bullish in his running style and is prone to elaborate dances to celebrate his touchdowns.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis acknowledged he doesn't always approve of Hill's comments, especially how he denigrated the Cleveland Browns in November.


Lewis is growing accustomed, though, to Hill's end zone antics. That includes an unsuccessful attempt to jump into the stands during last Sunday's rout in Cleveland, where he was pushed aside by a Browns fan.

"I'd rather it be very quick and get back and figure out how he's going to get the next one," Lewis told Cincinnati reporters. "I want him to be able to celebrate. That's a key goal of mine, to let Jeremy celebrate in the end zone as much as possible, just make it quick."

What does Lewis think of Hill's unique dance steps? Well, that's where the generational gap comes into play.

"I don't understand much of that, but he's good," Lewis said. "He's been good for the team because I think they respect his maturity and how he's handled things. He's one of the guys. He's learning how to grow in the NFL as a young guy. He's doing it the right way."

The way Hill is stampeding over linebackers, rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns against the Browns last Sunday and being named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, Lewis can't help but approve of the third-round NFL draft pick from LSU.

"'He's a work in progress, let's just say in every way, but he's got great physical tools and abilities," Lewis said. "He's been very mature as a young guy for the most part. He just wants to talk. Sometimes I tell him that's not to our best benefit for you to think out loud."

Hill, who replaced Giovani Bernard as the starter, has rushed for 877 yards and eight touchdowns and averages 5 yards per carry. The 6-foot-1, 238-pound native of Baton Rouge, La., has also caught 25 passes.

"It's just bringing a lot of passion and intensity to the game and just running hard," Hill said. "I like to have fun out there. You only get to be out there a couple hours on Sunday, so I try to make the most of it anytime I'm out there."

Holding out hope for Manziel

It's been well-documented how badly Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel bombed during his starting debut against the Bengals. It was a total disaster.

Manziel's money-making gesture became a joke at his expense as he was taunted repeatedly. He had a putrid 27.3 passer rating, completing 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 30-0 shutout loss.

So, here comes Johnny Football 2.0 this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Despite Manziel's unimpressive first NFL start, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan insists he still believes in the former Heisman Trophy winner.

"I feel the same about Johnny as I always have,'' Shanahan told Cleveland reporters. "Johnny is a playmaker. There were a couple times in that game he did make some plays. We weren't able to capitalize on it. Johnny is going to have some growing pains.

"He's played a type of football that he's not going to be able to down in and down out in the NFL, but you still want him to do it at times. Johnny is a real impressive guy. Johnny is a real dude. He's not going to sit there and BS me or anything. We all were embarrassed by that game."


Big game for Haley, Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday to keep pace in the ultra-tight AFC North race.

Because it has been three years since the Chiefs fired Todd Haley as head coach, the Steelers' offensive coordinator isn't overly sentimental about coaching against his former team — especially when he's consumed with devising ways to contain pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

"This is a huge game for both teams," Haley told Pittsburgh reporters. "A lot is at stake for both us. They're a very good defense, probably the best we've seen this year. They can do a lot of things to hurt you.

"They have two of the best pass-rushers in Tamba and Justin Houston. They have a very good secondary. They have big run-stopping dudes inside in Dontari Poe and Allen Bailey. We have our work cut out and we probably have to play our best game."