The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the New Orleans Saints Sunday at Heinz Field and after what we saw Monday night, the black and gold should make running the football a priority in that game.
In their 34-27 Monday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Saints gave up a season-high 215 yards rushing with running back Justin Forsett accounting for 182 of those yards on 22 carries. The Ravens also registered five runs of 20 yards or more in that game to boot.
Over the course of their last three games, the Saints have allowed 545 total rushing yards, so that potentially bodes well for Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who is coming off of a career-high 204 yard rushing performance against the Tennessee Titans.
The Saints also might very well be without starting defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley come Sunday as he did not return to the game Monday night after leaving late in the first quarter with a right leg injury. John Jenkins replaced Bunkley in the lineup, but he didn’t play well overall against the run in relief.
The Ravens had a lot of success against the Saints Monday night when running the outside zone to the right side, so we’ll see if the Steelers try to use that scheme some on Sunday. So far this season the Steelers have mostly run the counter power with some inside and split zone runs mixed in. We really haven’t seen a lot of outside zone run by them this season.
If the Steelers are able to run the ball early against the Saints it should open up some looks down the field off of play action. Against the Ravens, the Saints allowed three explosive passing plays of 20 yards or more through the air. Like the Steelers, they have now allowed 40 such explosive passing plays through eleven games played.