Since allowing the Dallas Cowboys to rush for 127 yards back in Week 10, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has done a very good in their last three games when it comes to stopping the run. In fact, that unit has allowed just 180 total rushing yards on 50 carries during their recent string of three wins. Because of that recent success against the run, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday during his weekly press conference to explain what he attributes to his run defense’s improvement.
“We’re tackling better, we’re where were supposed to be,” Tomlin said. “We respect everybody that we play, but we acknowledge that we’ve got a lot to do with how we perform in that area and we’ve been more consistent in performance.
“Like we’ve talked openly about in a splattering of ways, I’m not saying that our performance has been drastically below the line prior to recent weeks, it’s just it doesn’t require much to get you out of kilter in the NFL. A guy out of place once every 10 snaps and an explosion play has changed the outcome of football games. We’ve described it as popcorn. We’ve minimized some of that popcorn and in doing so we’ve made ourselves a stouter unit.”
In the Steelers’ upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills their run defense will really be tested as they’ll be facing the league’s top rushing unit. The Bills have a formidable rushing attack that includes not only running back LeSean McCoy, but mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor as well. Tomlin addressed the challenges that both players will present this Sunday and he started with the former, who played his college football at the University of Pittsburgh.
“He’s still very much dominating football games in the ways that he did when he was a Panther,” Tomlin said of McCoy. “He’s a great natural runner, he’s got a great feel for the game. He doesn’t run by numbers, if you will. He doesn’t necessarily put the ball where its supposed to go. He ad libs at times, he’s dynamic because of it. He challenges you to play assignment football because of that style of play. It has worked well for him over the course of his career, it’s working well for him now.”
As for Taylor, Tomlin is certainly aware of his ability to run with the football as well.
“Tyrod Taylor is a big component of their run game as well, whether its by design, or by ad lib, Tomlin said. “They’ve got some designed quarterback runs that are very challenging that make you play assignment football that stretch you in terms of the perimeter, your defense, forcing units and things of that nature.
Because Taylor is such a threat to scramble with the football on passing plays, Tomlin was asked Tuesday if he might have one of his defensive players spy the Bills quarterback on Sunday.
“We have and we have often,” Tomlin said. “We’re open to using whatever techniques or schematics at our disposal to minimize his impact on the game if you’re talking about his mobility and the issues that it creates.”
In case you don’t already know it by now, the Bills currently lead the league in explosive runs of 20 yards or more entering Sunday’s game against the Steelers. McCoy is responsible for 9 of those runs and Taylor has registered 5 such runs so far this season. If that’s not enough, backup running back Mike Gillislee has 4 explosive runs. in total, 5 of those 18 explosive runs by the Bills have resulted in touchdowns.
“If they run it, we better be prepared to minimize it,” Tomlin said .