It would surely be going too far to call the Pittsburgh Steelers’ efforts on the ground today a smashing success. However, it was a clear and obvious improvement upon what they have managed in recent weeks, having been held to under 50 yards in three straight games, with rather sub-par efficiency numbers to attest to the fact that it wasn’t just because they weren’t trying.
On the day, with the win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the offense did top 100 yards on the ground for the first time in five weeks, though it took them 27 carries to get to 109 yards, coming in just shy of four yards per carry. That does include a one-yard Benny Snell Football™ touchdown, who finished with 15 yards on seven carries.
Asked after the game if he was satisfied with the run game following the Jaguars, head coach Mike Tomlin was in a dismissive mood, harping on the media for focusing only on the team’s lack of success on the ground when there are other issues to address as well.
“I don’t know, man, I’ll let you guys keep talking about that”, he said. “It was better today. We’ll keep assessing it. We’re not gonna crack that nut with the first swing. It’s gonna take continual work and effort on our part to continue to work on our warts, and that’s not our only wart. It’s just the one that you guys choose to recognize”.
It’s important to note that Tomlin said last week there were issues with the running game that they were going to spend time working on, in what was basically the first acknowledgement since the rough stretch began that there was anything amiss.
The Steelers did put up over 100 yards in each of the first five games of the season, including four 100-yard individual performance, one from Snell in the opener and followed by three from James Conner, who finished the day with 89 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Conner’s success on the day is something of a conundrum, as he only had five successful carries on his 13 runs, and his best plays came when he had to cut back when the initial read was not available. That means that the blocking still isn’t where it needs to be, but it does mean that he is making plays. One of his best plays was turning a four-yard loss into a two-yard gain.
So where does that leave the Steelers’ run game heading into a key Thanksgiving matchup against the Baltimore Ravens? Baltimore was down Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams today, neither of whom practiced at all during the week, and it’s not clear that they will be back in time, so that could be to their advantage.