For something like the fourth time in five games this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to move the ball particularly well on the ground. And four the fourth time in five games, the vast majority of the blame rests on the shoulders of the execution of the blockers, rather than of the performance of the running back.
While Le’Veon Bell was able to break a couple of runs during his 15 carries that can be credited to good blocking, there was a very high frequency of breakdowns that led to negative runs. Below are six such failures that resulted in either no gain or lost yardage.
We might as well start at the top. Early in the first quarter, with the Steelers facing a second and six at the Jaguars’ 11 following a four-yard run, the Jaguars strung Bell out and dropped him for a loss of two yards.
With David DeCastro and Vance McDonald leading the way on the counter, the inability of the lineman to stick his block contributed to McDonald overpursuing, hoping to catch the furthest defender in case Bell was able to find the edge.
Later in the quarter, from back at their two-yard line, out of 22 personnel and facing a nine-man box, three separate failures of execution from DeCastro, Roosevelt Nix, and B.J. Finney saw Bell’s narrow window collapse for no gain.
They did escape that miss to continue the drive, but later from the 30, on first and 10, both Jesse James—especially James—and Maurkice Pouncey failed to hold their blocks, which otherwise would have produced a nice hole inside of the left guard on the play.
Four minutes into the second quarter, showing a heavy run look on the right side, the back was stopped after just a yard with Pouncey losing his block up the middle and DeCastro unable to reach the linebacker at the second level.
Early in the third quarter, with James in the backfield on first and 10, the tight end was way too hesitant hitting the hole up the middle, with the speedy Telvin Smith easily kicking inside of him to drop Bell for a loss.
Perhaps the ugliest play of the day came beyond the midpoint of the third quarter, with DeCastro and James pulling. Both of them missed their blocks, and the two came in to drag the running back down for a huge loss of five yards.
The run blocking this season too often has been just ugly in terms of execution. Often enough, they are not even getting beaten, but simply not executing their assignments—in other words, beating themselves. It’s funny that when this is happening nobody is criticizing Mike Munchak’s coaching ability. Why is he the only coach on the roster free from criticism?