With each passing year, it seemed, Roosevelt Nix’s role was being reduced in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. Or, more accurately, the role of the fullback was being reduced. The Steelers were throwing the ball more and more, and when they weren’t, they were spending more time running out of three-receiver sets.
That could potentially change now as he comes back from an injury that has cost him the majority of the 2019 season. With Ben Roethlisberger having already been placed on the Reserve/Injured list all the way back in Week Two, the offense has now been in the hands of second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph.
The run-pass ratio has been largely heading toward a more balance look over the course of the past four weeks. In Rudolph’s first start, they recorded 22 rushes to 27 pass attempts. A week latest, it was 25 to 31. The Ravens game was an outlier at 19 to 31, but in the game that Devlin Hodges started, in which they had a comfortable lead, they rushed 36 times to 20 pass attempts, even with Jaylen Samuels down.
Could Nix slide into the offense and play a bit of a bigger role than he has in recent years, with the scheme angling more toward the running game? Really, it all depends upon whether or not they are successful doing it. The team’s numbers rushing with a fullback on the field versus without haven’t necessarily been spectacularly better or more successful. Still, it provides them with another option that they really haven’t had for most of the season.
“We’re in a whole other operation with a whole other game plan”, Nix told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as he got back on the practice field for the first time in over a month. “Like I’ve said, it’s always been the same story. Whenever they call my name, I’ll do the same thing I have to do”.
The bigger role that he will play, of course, will not come on offense, but on special teams, where he has been one of the Steelers’ best and most important players since his first season with the organization. He is a mainstay, and that has given him job security.
But head coach Mike Tomlin has talked over the course of the season in the wake of Nix’s injury about how it has essentially taken an arrow out of their quiver. His return gives them the option to show that 21 or 22 personnel look, which is one they are more likely to do now that they don’t have Roethlisberger running the show.