Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that the team would devote time to getting the ground game back to where it needs to be when he talked to reporters during his Tuesday pre-game press conference. By the time players were heading to practice on Wednesday, they did not yet have a clear notion of what that would entail—at least, left guard Matt Feiler didn’t during his pre-meeting interview with the media on Wednesday.
“I don’t know”, he said when asked what they would be focusing on in the run game, via video provided by the team’s media department. “It’s kind of just the rhythm the games’ been going, whether we’re down or whatever. We’re just all passes, and I think we’ve just got to get on a better rhythm and maybe stay on our fits a little bit longer, and just communicate”.
“We’ve just got to get back to our base, fundamental stuff, and keep working off of that and strengthen that first”, he added, which frankly is always a good start. Breaking things down to the fundamentals and starting over. And frankly, a lot of the issues have been in the fundamentals of the movement of the blocking scheme and in keeping lanes clean.
The Steelers, in truth, were actually successful running the ball in the early portions of the season. They were able to grind out the run game to close out games in what seemed like a weekly basis. In the first five games, James Conner had three 100-yard efforts, and Benny Snell managed one on top of that.
Since then, however, they have been held to under 100 yards rushing in four consecutive games. Over the past three, they haven’t even managed 50 yards on the ground. They have rushed for just 138 yards on 54 carries those three games, averaging 2.55 yards per carry. In the game before that, they at least approached respectability, rushing for 94 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown.
Largely, the offensive line has been perceived for years to be stronger in pass protection than in the run game. Granted, pass protection is more important, but no offensive line wants to hear that they are deficient in run-blocking, which is more proactive and aggressive than pass protection.
“I think we’re pretty balanced”, Feiler said of the line’s ability. “Obviously when we’re passing, we have to be on our Ps and Qs, and the same thing with our run jobs. We’ve got to make sure that we’re getting into the right fits and getting to the second level when we can”.
If they want to prove it, then they’ve got to show it over the course of the second half of the season. Inefficient and ineffective blocking has been the biggest bugaboo for ballcarriers in recent weeks, so whatever they work on to take care of it in practice will be most welcome.