The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Game Edition – Will the offense be able to continue to build upon their success running the ball?
Last week was really the first game of the season in which the Steelers truly ran the ball very well. They had good cumulative numbers a couple of games ago against the Ravens, but it was more an effort of attrition than it was domination.
That changed against the Chiefs, who admittedly have not ranked well on the ground. But all aspects of the running game were on point, from the offensive line, to the tight ends, to the running backs, of course, even to the wide receivers.
If the Steelers can continue to get that holistic success from all components, there is no reason that they can’t continue to run the ball frequently and with efficiency, as they were doing during the second half of the 2016 regular season and into the playoffs. After all, it’s mostly the same personnel.
But the Bengals have been one of the stingier defensive fronts against the run in the NFL, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry so far, with only one long run against them, a breakaway 49-yard touchdown. In comparison, the Steelers are averaging 4.7 yards per carry allowed, with six long runs going against them.
Of course, the Steelers have been able to run the ball against tough Cincinnati defenses in the past, and they had success against some of the better run defenses in the league a year ago, such as the Giants—not so much this year.
They have the proven talent that should enable them to run against any team at any time, and they appear to be getting closer and closer to hitting their full stride. But one game can be an anomaly. It’s time to string some quality games together on the ground.