The Pittsburgh Steelers are, overall, a decent run-defense unit, even if the focus right now is the fact that they dropped the ball in this area in a major way during the second half of their most recent game. They allowed the Seattle Seahawks to climb back from a 14-point halftime deficit and take them into overtime simply because they couldn’t stop the run from the start of the third quarter on.
Preparing to take on one of the best rushing offenses in the league, this group understands what the focus must be, and has been during the bye week. Defensive end Chris Wormley talked about how their work has been geared toward bottling up Nick Chubb, the Cleveland Browns’ Pro Bowl runner, but more generally, just concentrating on the fundamentals.
“Being more attentive to details is gonna be our biggest thing”, he told reporters yesterday. “We did that a little bit last week with our practice, kind of focusing on that. But when you have a team like Cleveland that’s run-first, that’s gonna be our biggest challenge this week, is to stop the run with a back like Chubb”.
Though you might not think it, so much of a successful run defense is in the planning. Get guys in the gaps and funnel the runner into a gang of defenders. If you can do that every play, you’re going to have a very successful run defense, no matter how elusive or powerful any running back might be.
Even a back like Chubb, who is admittedly one of the very best pure running backs in the game. He is returning from injury after missing the past two games, but he’s averaging 5.8 yards per rush on the season, putting up over 500 yards on 90 carries with four scores in five games. And he has one of the best run-blocking offensive lines out in front of him.
“They’re big, they’re physical, they can move people off the ball when you’re not ready for it”, Wormley said of the Browns’ line. “As a defensive lineman, that’s gonna be our biggest challenge this week is stopping the run, with guys like [Jack] Conklin, [Joel] Bitonio, those guys have been in the league a long time and they play great ball. We’re gonna have to stop the run if we want to win the game”.
Cleveland has had some health issues upfront as well, with both Conklin and left tackle Jedrick Wills missing some time, but both now appear to be back and ready to go, so Wormley and company are going to have their work cut out for them.
And lest we forget, they blocked D’Ernest Johnson to a 22-carry, 144-yard day just last week, so they don’t even need Chubb to be successful carrying the ball. They have talent throughout their scheme in this phase. So they’ve better be attentive to details.