Many places have folk heroes or individuals that have almost developed a cult like following and Mike Munchak has certainly become a folk hero in the city of Pittsburgh. There is no questioning the coaching ability that the former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach brought to the table which is why many panicked and worried about the line’s performance going forward once he decided to join the Denver Broncos last off season.
It seems like many of those worries have turned into a reality as the Steelers have struggled running the football this season. The Munchak effect seemed to be showing its side effects as the Steelers have seemingly gotten no push at all in the trenches this season. While it may seem like the run blocking has fallen off a cliff this season, this is only a fraction of the truth.
The reality is that while the Steelers have struggled to run the ball this season, averaging just 3.5 yards per attempt compared to 4.2 yards per attempt last season, the decline has been in the works dating back to last season with week eleven seeming like the initial start date.
Since week eleven of last season, the Steelers have played 17 games and have failed to crack 100-yards rushing in 14 of those contests. No team has failed to crack 100-yards rushing more times than the Steelers since then and even when ditching the 100-yard ballpark figure, it is hard not to notice the decline.
Weeks 1-10 last season (9G):
951 rushing yards, 105.7 yards per game, 4.3 yards per attempt
Since then (17G):
1301 rushing yards, 76.5 yards per game, 3.7 yards per attempt
Was week eleven of last season the tipping point in the decline of the Steelers’ ability? It sure looks like this could be the verdict but there is even more to this tale. While the Steelers were generally running the football at a very good rate up until week eleven, these numbers may be bloated and not telling the whole story.
With a closer look needed, below are all the Steelers’ rushing figures broken down into four game stretches dating back all the way to last season. The results may be a little shocking.
The only obvious outlier in which the Steelers ran the football exceedingly well comes during the second quarter of games (games 5-8) from last season with an average of 4.9 yards per attempt. This would be the only stretch of games over the last two years that the team surpassed the 4.2 yards per attempt figure that was set over the entire course of last season.
Other than those four games, the Steelers have settled in around the 3.4-4.1 yards per attempt figure, though they may set a new low if they cannot improve the current 2.3 yards per attempt they are averaging over their last two games.
What this shows is that the decline of the Steelers’ rushing effectiveness has not been sudden or out of left field like once imagined. The decline does not even line up with the departure of coach Munchak. Instead, it paints an even more concerning and horrifying picture – aside from a four-game stretch near the halfway point of last season, the Steelers have generally struggled or floated around the average mark when it comes to consistently moving the ball on the ground.
While the argument that Munchak’s departure could have worsened an already developing problem is a valid one seeing how the Steelers have only continued to barrel downhill this season, his departure may just be another symptom of the issue rather than the cause of the issue itself.