Another Ugly Day For Run Defense Shows Cracks Have Not Been Patched

For the second time in three games, the Pittsburgh Steelers were run over at the worst possible moments in today’s game, gashed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on the ground when it mattered most. It was a similar theme from their overtime loss in Chicago, and it is no surprise that this one ended with another defeat.

While the final numbers are actually not quite as bad as they might seem, boosted tremendously by a 90-yard rushing touchdown when the game was already well in hand, there were few if any instances during the game in which it could be said that the defense was establishing its presence against the run.

Rookie fourth-overall draft pick Leonard Fournette led the way with his best day of his young career, rushing for 181 yards on 28 carries, but, as mentioned, just under half of those yards came on just one touch.

Leading up to that play, which came right after the two-minute warning on third and two from the Steelers’ 10-yard line, Fournette, though finding success at times, was still averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, gaining 91 yards on his first 27 carries of the game, which also included an earlier touchdown.

But backup runner Chris Ivory did damage as well, during for 40 yards on eight carries, while a nine-yard scramble—for a first down on third and eight—by Blake Bortles capped off another ugly day on run defense for this defense.

In all, they gave up 231 rushing yards on 37 plays, averaging 6.2 yards per carry, managing just two tackles for a combined loss of six yards. If you take out the 90-yard run, the Jaguars averaged 3.8 yards per carry. But that run counts as much as any other.

The Jaguars had just one rush of 10 or more yards in the first half, surprisingly enough as we look back on the game, but they had four on their first drive of the fourth quarter, and added a sixth on the long 90-yard scamper.

On a play-to-play basis, the run defense was not as terrible as it might have felt, but the common theme of the season has continued to be too many big plays allowed at inopportune times on the ground, for a variety of reasons, including missed tackles and missed fits in run support.

Things won’t get any easier next week, heading into Kansas City to face the star rookie running back, Kareem Hunt. One would think that they would have found more success at home, but that was certainly not the case today.

They now have a week to address this issue, but there is not a lot of room for optimism right now. While, again, the 90-yard run when the game was in hand really distorts the end result here, the Steelers allowed Jacksonville at times to simply impose their will with physical running, and that can’t happen.

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