The Pittsburgh Steelers currently sit 14th in the NFL with 250 rushing yards through two games, averaging, of course, 125 yards on the ground per game. They’ve gotten 100-yard games out of both Benny Snell and James Conner so far. They are averaging 4.8 yards per carry, are one of five teams with three or more explosive runs, and are doing this in spite of the fourth-lowest first-down percentage via the run. They also have the most fumbles on rushes.
In other words, while the running game has done its job for the most part, especially when it has been needed most—outside of a 3rd-and-1 stop near the goal line—there is still room for improvement, which is the sentiment that head coach Mike Tomlin expressed earlier today during his pre-game press conference.
“I’m generally pleased with the trajectory of the running game, specifically, and part of the reason I can say that is…we’ve been able to close games via the run”, he said. “We’ve been able to possess the ball in four-minute offense. We’ve had a lead in the latter part of the game and been able to close the game out and maintain possession of the ball, primarily via the run. So I like that aspect of it”.
The Steelers clinched the season opener via the run, cementing the win with an eight-yard end-around carry by Chase Claypool on 4th and 1 after Snell got them the first three yards. Conner’s 59-yard run sealed it on Sunday at Heinz Field.
“We’re still working and growing in terms of being able to do all the things we’re able to do in that area of the game”, Tomlin added. “But I think it’s a good start when you have your four-minute offense rolling and you’re able to possess the ball via the run and preserve a lead at the end of a football game”.
Overall, the Steelers’ run success rate has been a positive so far through the first two games of the season, and they have faced some solid fronts that included the likes of Dalvin Tomlinson and Jurrell Casey. That is not to be taken for granted.
They have also been without David DeCastro, perhaps their best run-blocking offensive lineman, while working in two new right tackles, and with Matt Feiler still settling in full-time at guard after starting 25 games over the past two years at right tackle.
I believe the further solidification of the offensive line—DeCastro is due back this week—will only improve the running game even further and hopefully iron out some of the wrinkles that we have seen through two weeks, eliminating some of the negative plays.