The Pittsburgh Steelers had not had a true fullback for many years before stumbling upon Roosevelt Nix last year, a converted college defensive end who originally signed with the Falcons after going undrafted in 2014. He ended up making Pittsburgh’s squad a year ago because of his special-teams play, but they left him on the field as a lead blocker often enough.
Entering his second season, Nix dealt with a back injury dating back to training camp, which has sidelined him for most of the season, but his playing time has slowly increased, and he saw a full 25 snaps on Sunday, the same amount he had in the previous two games combined.
Nearly all of that work came in the second half of the game for the Steelers against the Bills, as they stuck mostly the throwing the ball in the first half. Nix logged only two snaps in the first half, but was on the field for the majority of the offense’s snaps in the second half.
That included the Steelers’ first play from scrimmage of the third quarter, which went for 13 yards off left guard, with Nix leading the way for Le’Veon Bell during his record-setting day. The fullback did a nice job of working against the Bills’ rookie defensive end, getting him turned on the edge of the formation and creating the alley for the back to get through.
Later on that same drive, the Steelers were set up with a first and 12 following a false start, but that was quickly negated by Bell being able to pick up 24 yards on the ground after working his way around the left tackle. It was in large part thanks to Nix hitting the hole first and popping the linebacker looking to fill the gap. As a result, Bell was not seriously contested on the run until he was worked out of bounds.
The drive ended five plays later with the running back working his way into the end zone once again, for the third time in the game, marking the first time in his career that he scored three rushing touchdowns in a game. And this one especially he owes to Nix, who escorted the defensive back clear out of Bell’s way, and out of the back of the end zone, for an untouched score.
On another run early in the fourth quarter, the fullback showed himself to have a true lead-blocking mindset on a six-yard run around left guard. After initially working toward the middle between the tackles, Nix sharply diverted his angle to his left to pick off the oncoming linebacker, which allowed Bell to take that vacated lane.
Nix may not be a flawless lead blocker—I didn’t find it necessary to highlight any of the plays that were less successful here, but there were a few—but he is serving this offense well when he is called upon. And his role may continue to be an important one down the home stretch against all division rivals.