The Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t joking when they said that they missed Roosevelt Nix. That is not necessarily a comment on how the offense performed when the veteran fullback was on the field, but rather the evident desire that they had to incorporate him more into the offense.
In his first game back healthy since suffering an injury in the regular season opener, Nix logged 20 snaps of offense. I’m not even sure, but that might be a career-high for him, or if not, it can’t be too far from it. Of those 20 plays, 16 were runs. Two were negated by penalty.
On the remaining 14 runs, they totaled 69 yards from scrimmage, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, including the two longest runs of the day of 25 and 17 yards. When you take those two out, however, they had just 27 yards on the remaining 12 carries, hardly even two yards per rush at that point.
Nevertheless, the point is evident that the Steelers were looking to establish Nix back into the offense by establishing the run. And that is what Matt Feiler told Will Graves of the Associated Press. “We wanted to get Rosie back in and back comfortable since he missed some time”, he said.
The Steelers were able to get an AFC Offensive Player of the Week performance out of James Conner, who rushed for 145 yards on the day, just one yard off of his career-high mark that he set nearly a year ago.
The expansive use of the fullback in this past game, though, is really not in keeping with the general trajectory of the offense over the course of the past several years, which saw Nix asked to play fewer and fewer snaps with each passing year, the running game becoming more of a supplement than a completement.
Was this just a matter of wanting to get Nix some work? Or are they really moving in this direction for the remainder of the 2019 season as a result of Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending injury? He’s not here to throw the ball 700 times, after all, and you probably don’t want Mason Rudolph doing that, even as good as he has looked.
Sometimes a situation just calls for a fullback, though, and you’re glad when they arise and you actually have a fullback at your disposal. Said David DeCastro, “not many guys want to do that role”, calling it “a dirty role”, though obviously not in a pejorative sense.
Now that he is back and healthy, how many snaps will he average per game for the rest of the season? Fullbacks are a dying breed in the game of football as it is, with rare exceptions.