The Pittsburgh Steelers’ run game must improve. Everyone knows that. You know that, I know that, the league knows that, and you can bet the Steelers know that. The better question to ask is – how? How will this unit improve from its 32nd ranked status a year ago?
For B.J. Finney, who wasn’t around for the disaster that was last year’s running game, it means getting a lot more physical. Talking with reporters on Thursday, he outlined what the Steelers need to do to see better results. And knows all eyes are on him.
“I mean, honestly, that’s the talk not just in our room, but across the whole building and across the whole NFL,” Finney said in a Zoom call. “Everybody’s like, what is this Steelers run game going to look like? We know that we have to come out with an edge. We have to be nasty about it.”
That falls in line with what new head offensive line coach Adrian Klemm has preached all offseason. That a successful offensive line starts with a physical group up front. Something last year’s front five lacked. After having moderate success their first four games, the run game immediately tanked and was by far the league’s worst the rest of the way. This offseason, the team uprooted its personnel and coaching staff, making changes across the board.
For Finney, he hopes those alterations bring the team back to their roots.
“We have to reassert that run game and get back to what Pittsburgh is known for. Those three yards at a time, that dust cloud, as Jerome Bettis would say. And when the dust settles, that ball’s moving forward. We take pride in it. We’re hungry. We know that we have something to prove and we’ve got a chip on our shoulder, so we want to do it.”
It’s unlikely the Steelers play a brand of smash mouth football their 2005 team would recognize. But there’s no question the group has to play nastier and improve in short-yardage situations. On 3rd/4th and 1-2 runs last season, the Steelers converted a league-worst 55.6% of the time, 20 of 36 chances. For context, the NFL median was nearly 70% while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were #1 in the league at a whopping 90%.
If Pittsburgh can get that number to even league average, improve their overall run success rate into the low 50%, and not be so obviously one-dimensional, the entire offense will benefit.