It was just a few weeks ago that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked about there being legitimate issues with the team’s running game, and he resolved that they would get in the lab and work on them. He also expressed confidence that they were issues that would be relatively easy to address, but they wouldn’t also be solved overnight.
They ran for over 100 yards the first game after he said that. Over the past two games, things haven’t been so great. But they also haven’t had starting running back James Conner for those games, either. Benny Snell showed well late in the game last week, but he had perhaps one positive play today.
Rookie running back Anthony McFarland had runs of seven and nine yards. He totaled minus-one yards on his two other carries, but at least he had some positive yardage, and he finished the game with 15 rushing yards on four attempts. Snell finished with five yards on eight attempts.
What was Tomlin’s reaction to the Steelers’ run game in their loss to the Washington Football Team? As a group, they were held to just 21 yards on the ground on 14 rushing attempts, although that includes a couple of busted plays. Still, 1.5 yards per rush is not great. I think they had maybe three successful rushes.
“I’m just worried about us fluidly moving the football, whether it’s run or pass”, Tomlin said, however. “We move it how we choose to move it. The way that we chose to move it tonight wasn’t fluid enough for us to have victory, particularly in the moments that you mentioned”.
Of course, if they were having success on the ground, they probably would have more frequently chosen to move the ball on the ground. But they didn’t. Because the run game is lacking. Though it must be said that Washington legitimately has a very talent front four, including DaRon Payne and Jonathan Allen in the middle, with Chase Young and Montez Sweat on the edge.
The good news, perhaps, is that the Steelers figure to have Conner back in time for their next game against the Buffalo Bills. According to reports, he was actually in the building today. He was eligible to be removed from the Reserve/Covid-19 List. Presumably, he will be activated in a day or two.
The Steelers don’t need to run the ball much in order to be successful. They just need to be able to run the ball well when they do run the ball. All too often over the course of the past two months, they have failed to do that. It isn’t why they lost tonight, but it didn’t help, either.