There aren’t a lot of buyers when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers and their chances of succeeding in the NFL this year. Even though they’re coming off of a 12-4 season, they ended the year in grievous fashion. The team has lost many key parts since then.
One thing they have done is emphasize the running game, doing so by addressing shortcomings in the coaching staff and on the roster. The latter, of course, was emphasized by the selection of running back Najee Harris in the first round.
Former running back and now NFL analyst Maurice Jones-Drew does see a path forward for the Steelers this year. That is to revisit an old formula, one with which Ben Roethlisberger would be familiar with: The formula Pittsburgh employed when he broke into the league.
“When I look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, it reminds me of The Lion King. It reminds me of the circle of life”, MJD said on Good Morning Football yesterday. “The way you start is the way you finish, and if you look at Big Ben, go all the way back to 2005 when they won their first Super Bowl—that’s what the Pittsburgh Steelers have to do”.
“They have to run the football, and they have to play amazing defense”, he went on. “Let’s remember this Super Bowl. Fast Willie Parker, big runs. Jerome Bettis, doing everything he needed to do. The defense, my dawg Ike Taylor with a big interception in this game. You have to do it. This is what you have to do to win and get back”.
The Steelers ranked fifth in rushing that season and 24th in passing. They had the ninth-ranked scoring offense, though, and the third-ranked scoring defense, posting 47 sacks and 30 total takeaways. Their passing defense ranked 16th, but their run defense ranked third.
That was a long time ago, though, in virtually a different era of the game, with a different head coach, even if the quarterback is the same—and the only person left, short of defensive coordinator Keith Butler, from that time. but MJD still thinks they have the ingredients for a successful season—if they can rein in the passing game and ride the ground attack.
“They have the coaching staff to do it. Mike Tomlin’s done a tremendous job”, he said. “But you can’t allow Ben to throw the ball more than 22-25 times a game. You have to win on that running game. You have to shorten the games and allow your defense to put pressure on the opposing offense. If they can do that, they do have the opportunity, and the pieces in the locker room, to go out here and win the AFC North and get back to the playoffs”.
Now, getting to the playoffs is a low bar in Pittsburgh, even more so lately with Tomlin’s one-and-done runs of 2020, 2017, 2014, and 2011. They went 12-4 and won the division last year. The only question they are concerned with is, can we win the Super Bowl? It doesn’t even matter how. Whatever it takes.