One of the big topics of the day for the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday seemed to be the need, and the desire, to get the ground game going. They want to build off of what they started, particularly in the second half, against the Los Angeles Chargers in their second win of the season, before the bye week.
The Steelers have a total of 11 runs of 10-plus yards on the season through six games. That’s an average of fewer than two per game, but they had three against the Chargers. Despite his low average, James Conner had two, including a 12-yard touchdown, and Benny Snell broke off a 20-yard run.
“I think you’re seeing those explosive plays in the run game”, quarterback Mason Rudolph said, from a transcript provided by the Steelers’ media department. “That’s a credit to our offensive line. They’re doing a great job. Coach Tomlin’s always challenging us to achieve those 10-yard runs that are so big for you every week”.
It’s notable that the Steelers also had two runs of 10-plus yards against the Baltimore Ravens the week before, though that includes a scramble by Devlin Hodges. They also had three runs of 10 or more yards in the game before that, against the Cincinnati Bengals, all three by running backs, so there is a positive trend moving forward.
And Rudolph, and the offense, expect that to correlate to a boost in the passing game as well. “I think it’s a compatible deal if you’re attacking them in the run game and forcing them to come up and the linebackers bite on the fakes, it’s going to open up a lot more of the field”, he said.
“I think you’re seeing us getting our footing in that regard. You know, complement each other in the run game and play action game, and then down the field”, he went on. “You’re going to see that open up a whole lot more as we go forward. That’s what you’ve got to do to move the ball and get those splash plays to really eliminate execution”.
The Steelers have not been great about finishing drives off this season, though at least they have begun to show signs of improvement in that regard, and in converting on third down as well, which is big for the team as a whole going forward.
When you don’t have your franchise quarterback, it’s all the more valuable to be able to wield both a passing threat and a running threat. The offensive line is starting to come together more as a run-blocking unit after a slow start, and the running backs look to be starting to find their footing, so we’ll see where it all leads.