The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Can the Steelers get the ground game back on the right track against the Cleveland Browns?
While it has not necessarily been the Steelers’ biggest issue of late, I can’t help but notice that the team has failed to reach even 50 yards rushing in either of the past two games. They have been under 100 yards rushing in three of the past four, and four of the past six—five of the last seven games.
The running game has been occasionally excellent, occasionally non-existent, and that lack of presence has come both in occasions during which the offense abandoned the run as well as stuck with it, even perhaps in spite of better thinking.
The did, to be fair, just face two of the best run defenses in the league over the course of the past two weeks, however. And they happen to be traveling to Cleveland to take on one of the worst run defenses in the league, which has been a common theme for the Browns in recent years.
Currently, the Browns rank 31st in rushing yardage allowed, giving up 1437 yards on the ground, and 27th in rushing average, giving up 4.5 yards per rush. Their 12 rushing touchdowns allowed on the season also ranks them 27th in the league.
The Steelers, meanwhile, run the ball at some of the lowest percentages in the league, but they still rank 25th in total rushing yardage with just 816 yards, and 21st with 4.1 yards per rush. Their six rushing touchdowns ranks 20th, and one of those touches was on an end-around.
There really is no good excuse for the running game not having done better, at the very least in terms of yards per carry, a figure that has admittedly dipped significantly in the past two weeks due to the quality of opponent, at least in part.
They have the talent along the offensive line, even if it has only seldom played up to its potential this year in the ground game. They most certainly have the talent at running back with Le’Veon Bell, who still makes up a large portion of his own yardage. As much as this team as a whole needs a ‘get right’ game, the running game specifically also needs its ‘get right’ moment.