The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers’ priority in the season finale should be implementing changes and improvements in the running game.
Explanation: It’s a very easy argument to make that working on improving the running game is far more important than winning or losing in the season finale, especially since it’s not even in their hands as to whether or not they are in the running to upgrade from the third seed to the second.
While the Steelers have, at times, offered a mirage of respectability in the run game over the course of the past month and a half or so, the ground game has by and large been a dismal failure for months. They had success in the early portions of the season—they are still the only team to have a 100-yard runner against the New York Giants since the opener—so there is ability.
There seemed to be some progress months ago before James Conner was hit with Covid-19, and that derailed the plans. Benny Snell rushed well against the Bengals, but against a depleted front without either of its starting defensive tackles.
They need to concentrate on having success on the ground against the Browns. 13-3 or 12-4, it doesn’t make a difference. Ben Roethlisberger shouldn’t even be playing in this game, so let Mason Rudolph hand the ball off to Conner and Snell. That would have a much bigger impact on their ability to succeed in the postseason than the possibility of being the second seed.
One can certainly argue that the running game is the Steelers’ biggest weakness. One can also argue that the Steelers can get by with that weakness if they have other strengths. To that end, it’s more important to continue to rebuild a successful passing game than to get a pittance in the running game.
The only thing that they really need from the run game is to get one yard when they need it, and they haven’t even been doing that. They found ways to get it through the air on Sunday against the Colts. It’s Roethlisberger, not the running backs, who need to get right in time for the postseason.