The Pittsburgh Steelers have rushed for a combined 68 yards over the course of their past two games on 31 attempts, which works out to an average of about 2.2 yards per attempt. They have been held to under 100 total yards as a team in seven of their last eight games, with a high of 106 yards, which came the week before both running back James Conner and center Maurkice Pouncey would test positive for Covid-19.
Although they got both starters back for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, it didn’t make much of a difference in their ability to find success with the football on the ground. It also didn’t help that, as head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed earlier today, Conner suffered a quad injury during the game, limiting him to just 23 total snaps, only a few of which came in the second half.
The issues with the run game pre-date any issues with Conner or Pouncey, of course, and in fact, Tomlin said several weeks ago that they were beginning to actively address the problems holding them back in that area.
Earlier today, he acknowledged that that process has continued, even though they haven’t gotten the results. “In terms of getting prepared for next week, I know we talked quite a bit about our run game and deficiencies in that area”, he said. “Our focus hasn’t changed there. We are several weeks into a focus there. We will continue to work. We haven’t necessarily seen the fruit of that work yet”.
Another point of focus that he talked about was a lack of physicality in their loss to the Bills, and this is not the first time in recent weeks that Tomlin has specifically talked about not being physical enough. Working in pads didn’t help much last week, but they are banking on getting it fixed with a full slate of practices this week.
The Steelers were a top-10 rushing team through the first five games of the season, recording over 100 yards on the ground in each game, and even featuring four individual 100-yard efforts, three from Conner and another by Benny Snell.
Since then, they have only totaled 100 yards on the ground for an entire game just once, and have essentially become the worst rushing team in the league. Their 157 rushing attempts in that eight-game span ranks dead last, as does their 3.0 yards per carry. Their first down rate is third to last, and only one team has fewer touchdowns on the ground during that time.