The Pittsburgh Steelers had no issues running the ball in the early portions of the season. Through the first five games, they ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards per game, rushing touchdowns, and yards per carry, and they had four games in which they had a 100-yard rusher.
They have been the opposite over the past four games. They have been held to under 100 yards on the ground in each of them, and under 50 yards in the past three. Granted, they haven’t always extensively tried to run the ball in those games, but the issues have been obvious, and it has largely been centered on poor blocking.
Head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged this yesterday during his pre-game press conference, saying that the problem was going to be put in the lab this week to get fixed, and he also expressed confidence that it wouldn’t take much to resolve.
“In review of the game, I think the biggest significant component or analysis, or critique of the game is our ineffective run game”, he said. “We spent a lot of time talking and thinking about that in an effort to move forward. One of the things I’ll acknowledge is as a team, you always go through lulls in the season where components of your play are lacking, and it requires a re-center of energy or attention or focus”.
“I look forward to getting into the lab with the coaches and the guys and attacking this run game situation”, he added. “It’s something that we shouldn’t have a difficult time pushing through, to be quite honest with you. We have very capable people in that area, but it is below the line as we sit here today. Thankfully, it wasn’t significant enough in terms of costing us a game at this juncture, but we are proceeding with that level of urgency”.
Even though they haven’t run the ball often and haven’t been able to run effectively often enough when they have tried, that has not been debilitating to their winning efforts, as, after all, they have won each of the past four games. As well as the first five games on top of that.
But, of course, the Steelers would like to run the ball well when they do run. And one area in which it has been a problem, other than in some recent short-yardage failures, has been in end-of-game circumstances when they are trying to put games away.
That is one thing in which they excelled early in the season, being able to put teams away late while nursing a lead by grinding out a four-minute offense or just getting the one first down that they need to drain the clock to zero.
They haven’t been able to get the job done over the past several weeks, and that in large part has led to their more recent photo finishes, so to speak. Prior to Sunday’s blowout victory, their previous three games had all been decided on the final play of the game.