Steelers Defense Grounds Running Game During Season Of Improvement

In part fueled by the fact that played nearly the entire length of the game with the lead, the Pittsburgh Steelers passing defense left a lot to be desired, enabling second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel to have a career game.

The former Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner attempted 45 passes, completing 33 for a completion percentage of 73, accumulating 372 yards through the air, throwing one touchdown and one interceptions.

That translated to an average of 8.3 yards per pass attempt, driven by Manziel’s ability to extend plays, but it also created opportunities for the defense to create plays, which posted a season-high six sacks on the day.

When it came to securing their territory on the ground, however, the Steelers were very good, which is in part why the Browns focused so heavily on the passing game—as did Pittsburgh for most of the game, for the same reason.

Outside of a trio of Manziel scrambles that encompassed 17 yards, including an 11-yard run that was nearly a touchdown as much as it was nearly a sack, the Browns accumulated a total of…minus-two rushing yards.

Leading the way was rookie running back Duke Johnson, whose 10 yards on four attempts in comparison looks like an all-time great performance. Isaiah Crowell, the second-year back, carried the ball six times, but totaled minus-five yards for his efforts. Wide receiver Travis Benjamin was also knocked back for a seven-yard loss on a trick play end around.

All told, then, including Manziel’s yardage, the Browns rushed for 15 yards on an admittedly very low 14 attempts, which is obviously only very slightly north of one yard per carry. They averaged 1.07 yards per carry, to be more exacting.

Following the game, the Steelers are now allowing an average of 93 yards on the ground per game, a number that ranks as fifth-best in the league, and less than five yards per game higher than the Jets’ league-leading 88.1 yards allowed per game.

Equally notable is the fact that the Steelers are giving up 3.8 yards per carry, which has them ranked seventh in the league. Last season, Pittsburgh finished in the top third in terms of rushing yards allowed per game, but the statistic was a misnomer, reflective of the fact that teams didn’t run the ball much against them.

The Steelers saw just 23 carries per game last year, but they gave up around 4.4 yards per carry, which translated to a sixth-best 100.3 rushing yards allowed per game.  This year, the Steelers are seeing more carries per game—more than an extra carry per game, after seeing just 14 yesterday—but are allowing more than half a yard less per attempt.

They have only allowed five explosive runs on the season, and just three rushing touchdowns. Only the Jets have allowed less rushing touchdowns thus far this season. The Steelers’ rushing defense is not a finished product, by any means, but there is no doubt that it has played beyond the level of expectations, especially in light of last season.

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