The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will the Steelers be able to continue their recent success moving the ball on the ground?
Not a whole lot went right offensively for the Steelers over the course of the first five weeks of the season, but we have, at least, seen the ground game pick up in recent weeks. In the victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, it was actually Benny Snell having a day, with 75 rushing yards on 17 attempts. On Monday, James Conner went off for 145 yards.
Both Conner and Snell are out for today’s game, and that leaves only Jaylen Samuels, himself returning from a knee injury after missing the previous two games, as the lead runner, with Trey Edmunds as his direct backup. They called a running back up from the practice squad, but chances are he will not play unless there is an emergency.
In spite of the injury woes at the running back position, this is not a significantly different scenario than when they faced the New England Patriots a year ago with Samuels as a rookie, and he was able to run on them.
The good news is that the Indianapolis Colts do not have a particularly good run defense this year, and are allowing a robust YPC figure against opposing rushers. It would seem that there is potential for Pittsburgh to move the ball on the ground.
Whether or not they will is another discussion, however, as we’ve certainly seen them enter games with favorable matchups and be unable to deliver on the promise suggested on paper. That will be up to Samuels and the offensive line, as the second-year back prepares for a heavy workload, perhaps the most touches in a game in his career.