2017 South Side Questions: Will Run-Game Inefficiency Come Back To Hurt Steelers?

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: Will the Steelers’ lack of efficiency in the running game come back to haunt them later this season?

One of the topics that we kicked this season off with was the running game and why it was not up to the pace that the team has set a year who, during which Le’Veon Bell legitimately looked like the best running back in the league. This year, he has more looked like the most-used running back in the league.

The fifth-year player leads the league in rushing yards, but only due to the fact that he has gotten more carries than anybody else. The fact remains that he is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry, and has been the case throughout the year, the causes of this inefficiency are varied and many, some of which fall on him, while others do no.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t particularly matter why the running game is not where it should be. What simply matters is that it is not where it should be, and whether or not that fact will end up being a detriment later on down the road.

It has been a while since the Steelers have last lost a game, so it has not gotten discussed all too much, but the running game has really not been there. Bell has averaged under four yards per carry for four consecutive games, and in seven of the 10 games played this season. Only once did he average more than 4.1 yards per carry.

As I wrote about earlier this week, Bell’s success rate on carries has dropped from about 47 percent a year ago down to 40 percent, while his negative runs doubled from five percent to 10 percent, and his total runs of no gain or worse increased from 13 percent to 18 percent.

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