The Pittsburgh Steelers may no longer lead the league in rushing yards per game, a temporary inflation based on a whopping 264-yard rushing performance during the third game of the season, but they do still rank seventh, averaging 137.2 yards per game.
More significant is that they rank fourth in the league in yards per carry, averaging nearly 5.1 yards as a team.
And even that statistic isn’t exactly representative of the overall effectiveness of their true running game, as it includes all runs of any kind, including end arounds and quarterback scrambles and kneel downs.
Between the two of them, Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount have rushed for 646 yards on 117 carries. That’s over 5.5 yards per carry. But 11 quarterback scrambles or kneel downs for a total of nine yards really drag down the team average.
But despite the uncommon success that the running game is seeing this year, supported by an improved offensive line, the Steelers continue to be a pass-heavy team with franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.
Through the first five games of the season, the Steelers have averaged at little over 27 rushing attempts per game, 136 rushes in total—including all running plays.
Roethlisberger, meanwhile, has already attempted 177 passes, while two other passes have been thrown by others. As a team, the Steelers have been averaging just under 36 pass attempts per game this year.
That means that the Steelers throw the ball nearly 57 percent of the time.
It’s not as though they haven’t been successful throwing the ball, of course. The team is averaging close to eight yards per pass attempt this year, which ranks seventh in the league currently.
Only the top two teams are averaging greater than 8.2 yards per pass attempt.
But given how successful the ground game has been with their one-two punch of Bell and Blount, you might think that they may want to take advantage of that asset and make greater use of a healthy running attack.
Even head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged yesterday that he would have liked to have seen more running plays called in the last game once the Steelers managed to get into the red zone.
They only managed to come away with one touchdown in four trips into the red zone, including two goal-to-go situations. A more balanced offensive approach in that situation could help, considering the running game already has three touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line.