Same story, different year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves potentially starting an unheralded running back in their Wild Card matchup. Last year, it was Ben Tate for Le’Veon Bell. This year, Fitzgerald Toussaint for DeAngelo Williams. And though on the surface the situations are disappointingly similar, Todd Haley is much more confident this time around.
“We didn’t have anybody,” Haley told Bob Labriola on the weekly edition of Coach Speak on Steelers’ Nation Radio.
“We had Dri, who knew what to do but those matchups from a protection standpoint were going to be a major issue. And we had Ben Tate off the street that had only been in the building a couple days. And really wasn’t able to pick up, and rightfully so, enough of how we protect, and some of our rules, and language and so forth. It really put us behind the eight ball as an offense. We had to do some things we hadn’t done throughout the year.”
The results showed as the Steelers only ran got 46 yards out of their running backs. Josh Harris, who Haley failed to even mention, led the group with 25 yards on nine carries.
“Where this year with Fitz and Jordan Todman, they’re guys who have been around. We all trust them in what they’re able to do. We have a pretty good feel for their skillset. From last year to this year, it’s a different set up for us. And I think everybody has confidence in those guys and what they’ll be able to do for us.”
Even if the stats weren’t pretty for Toussaint Sunday, it was plain to see he’s more confident and sure runner, largely attributed to his time in the Steelers’ system. And even though he’s still an obvious downgrade from Williams, he’s a satisfactory option for a team working on their third running back, something that would test the depth of most teams.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ run defense hasn’t been the best, allowing 4.3 yards per carry – tied for tenth most in the NFL – though they haven’t given up many touchdowns. Just eight, ranking sixth in the league and only two more than the Steelers allowed all season.