Tyler Boyd, a Pittsburgh-area native, grew up a Steelers fan before starring at the University of Pittsburgh. As a kid, Boyd witnessed his hometown team win two Super Bowls while flaunting a roster that included several future Hall of Fame players. Boyd, who is now entering his fifth season with the Cincinnati Bengals, wants to garner the same recognition that some of the players he idolized growing up received during their careers.
Boyd knows, however, that his team will have to mimic some of the success those Steelers teams enjoyed before he and his teammates -- most notably running back Joe Mixon -- receive the same type of respect. Neither player, despite their success over the past two seasons, has been selected to a Pro Bowl entering the 2020 seaosn.
"I feel like we deserve to be talked about a lot more and other players as well," Boyd said during a recent Zoom media call, via the Bengals' team website. "But I think they treat players in the same category as record, which I understand because you have to win to build that publicity and build that respect for yourself and that's what I'm all about. So, if that's what it takes for us to get talked about then it's time for us to start winning.
"But you know, I'm all about the respect. You have to respect players. That's legit guys in this league. I've done it. A.J. (Green) was down two years and I still piled up 1,000 (yards). Joe missed (two) games and still had 1,000 (in 2018-19). He came on big at the end of the year. If not both of us, at least one of us should've been in the (NFL Network's) top 100."
Boyd, who said he considers himself one of the league's top receivers, has some decent numbers to support his claim. Over the past two seasons, Boyd has averaged 83 receptions for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns despite inconsistencies at the quarterback position. Mixon, the 2017 second-round pick, is one of seven running backs to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. During the last eight games of the 2019 season, only Derrick Henry rushed for more yards than Mixon, who has compiled 2,888 all-purpose yards and 17 total touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Boyd believes the return of A.J. Green (who missed the entire 2019 season with an injury) will help create more opportunities to make plays. He also believes that rookie quarterback Joe Burrow's athleticism will give the Bengals' offense a much-needed added dimension that hasn't existed in recent seasons.
"Extending plays is the biggest key of keeping the offense on the field," Boyd said, via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. "We really didn't have too much scramble-throw or scramble-touchdown last year. It was very limited. But I think that's the key to winning. You got the Russells, Lamar -- everyone scrambles around and tries to make plays and allow the receiver to make separation. Joe, I believe, is a great fit for a guy, like, who knows how to utilize his ability in the pocket to maneuver and get away from tacklers so he can extend plays and we can continue to move the ball."
While several of their core players (Green, Mixon, Boyd and defensive linemen Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins) are still intact, the Bengals made several significant changes to their roster this offseason. As promised, Cincinnati was a player in free agency, signing several veterans, including D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes and Xavier Su'a-Filo. In the draft, the Bengals added significant pieces to both sides of the ball. Offensively, Burrow, receiver Tee Higgins and tackle Hakeem Adeniji join the fold. On defense, Cincinnati drafted defensive end Khalid Kareem and linebackers Akeem Davis-Gaither and Logan Wilson. Each of these players are expected to make an impact on the 2020 Bengals, a team that is looking to turn things around after winning just three of their past 24 games.
If the Bengals are able to be more competitive in 2020, that will surely lead to more national attention for Boyd and Mixon, one of the league's most underrated offensive duos.
"There are just so many pieces we're finally putting together that we didn't have in place last year," Boyd said of his team. "Now that we have everybody rolling, guys don't have to overthink it or be confused about what their role is and where they're playing at. With all the pieces in place, the sky's the limit."