Many have been wondering where in the world the Pittsburgh Steelers’s top-ranked running attack from earlier in the season had been for the last few weeks. The ground game was certainly missing in action last week against the New York Jets.
A lot of that came down to poor individual execution on a play-to-play basis, frequently with a new offender each time, rather than a recurring problem. Individually, all of the linemen had their glitches sporadically in the run blocking department, but it added up to a poor collective effort for the whole. That’s not to say that Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount didn’t net any of the blame.
What follows is a sample collection of such examples, demonstrating obvious lapses that the line is looking to clear up by tomorrow night for coach Mike Munchak’s return to Tennessee for the first time since his firing.
The first offensive play of the game could even be used as an example to that effect, though Bell didn’t help himself. With the line flowing to the left, Bell initially looked to be following suit behind Maurkice Pouncey, off his left side, but he came back to the right, allowing Calvin Pace to clean up coming in unblocked on the back side of the play.
The culprit? Improper shifting. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was left with nobody to block, with two Jets free. Bell was chased down from back side pursuit again on second down with Marcus Gilbert failing to provide a chip to slow down Quinton Coples.
As we move all the way to the last play of the third quarter, we find the Steelers in third and one on the four-yard line. Pittsburgh went three wide with Heath Miller the only tight end on Beachum’s left flank. Muhammad Wilkerson had his own ideas, using Beachum’s inside move against him and pushing to his outside. Miller could only chip at him as he tackled Bell for a loss of one in the backfield.
The Steelers had something going on their first drive of the fourth quarter, having gained a first down at the Jets’ 20-yard line. After a short pass for four yards on first down, the offense went back to Bell against a two-man front, with only one hand in the dirt between them.
Ramon Foster made the mistake of coming off his initial block and looking to assist elsewhere, as he allowed linebacker Demario Davis to coming through and make the tackle after a short gain. David DeCastro was also beaten, cutting off a potential avenue of escape.
Midway through the second quarter, the Steelers had second and goal at the one. They put four tight ends on the field, determined to run for it. The play immediately went downhill as Maurkice Pouncey was cut down, and then Wilkerson broke free of Foster. Wilkerson got to Blount at the six as the defense swarmed and chased him back further for a loss of eight on the play.