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: Will the Steelers stick with their strategy of focusing on the ground game against the Giants’ strong rushing defense?
For the past two games, the Steelers have run the ball a lot. And with that strategy has also come a lot of obvious run looks. That was especially the case on Thursday’s game, during which they ran a whopping 17 plays out of personnel sets that had just one wide receiver on the field, which represented nearly a third and their total plays, including penalties.
Now, the Steelers turned to the ground, and then they won two games after losing four in a row. That has to be some motivation to continue to do so on some level, seeing how much success they’ve had, about 150 rushing yards per game in that period and a couple of scores on the ground mixed in as well.
But I have written about this previously and speculated whether or not that personnel alignments were simply a reaction to their opponents. The Browns and the Colts have among the worst rushing defenses in the league. So, they showed a lot of rushing looks, and they rushed a lot, and they had success. There is not rinse and repeat against a quality rushing defense, however.
The team has broken out a bit of everything lately, using a lot of the fullback in the last game, and a lot of the tackle-eligible. If they think that they can win those same matchups against the Giants, then I suppose they will try.
But then, the real question perhaps becomes not whether or not they will go into the game planning to do that, but whether or not they will be able to find success doing that—and if not, if they will abandon it.
There have been times this year in which the Steelers have abandoned the run too soon, and other times when they should have abandoned it, but did not. But right now, we have a hot hand rushing offense going up against a hot hand rushing defense. Let’s see who wins, and if the home field truly provides an advantage.