Ask an offensive lineman, particularly an older one, and they’ll tell you upfront: what they take pride in more than anything is run-blocking. They love to block for the run because it’s a more proactive rather than reactive game, and they know they have a larger influence on the result. They create the holes for the ball-carriers. In the passing game, it’s pitch and catch from the quarterback to the receiver.
So Pittsburgh Steelers 11th-year veteran left guard Ramon Foster hasn’t been thrilled with what the team has been doing on the ground so far in 2019. As a team, they have 192 rushing yards on 51 attempts, averaging 3.8 yards per carry, with one touchdown. That’s the 30th-most attempts for 29th in yards, 24th in yards per carry, and 24th in touchdowns as well.
They haven’t been running a lot—partly because they’ve been trailing—but when they have, they haven’t been doing it very efficiently, or at least often enough. Foster was asked about that during his radio show yesterday on The Fan, and why they’re not getting it done so far. Below was his answer:
I think it goes back to just making our plays. And I say that with us upfront, the blocks. We faced a lot of people in the box as far as them trying to stop us, but that shouldn’t be a big deal. We’ve got to find ways to be more creative to get our guys going. If that means triple-teaming one guy, I don’t care what it is. Upfront, we’ve just got to get it going. There’s not many things we care about as far as o-linemen, but that stat as far as being able to run the ball sits heavy on us.
The San Francisco 49ers in particular did spend a lot of time stuffing the box against the Steelers, basically setting things up to dare Pittsburgh to have Mason Rudolph throw the ball around. They even gave them looks daring the Steelers to throw the ball down the field. More often than not, especially in the first half, they didn’t.
The Steelers attempted 22 rushes on Sunday, gaining just 79 yards, with Conner accounting for 13 and 43, respectively, but Conner at least was relatively successful in around half of his attempts. A lot of his carries were in short-yardage situations, and he was able to convert on them. He had positive plays on first down as well.
But everybody in the locker room knows that they need to do a better job with the run game. They need to run it better so that they can run it more, so that they can set up the play-action pass, which Sunday showed is going to be a key part of the offense for Rudolph.
For Foster, it comes down to the men upfront, winning their battles, stacked boxes or no. Find a way. To Conner’s credit, he’s been getting tagged a lot in the backfield, and has been able to create yards after contact.