The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.
They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.
There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: How will the run game fare amid the Bears’ defensive injuries?
The Bears do not have one of the better run defenses in the league this year. Having Khalil Mack absent, and perhaps Eddie Jackson at safety as well, is certainly not going to help matters. The Steelers themselves have not been setting records, by any means, but they have had a clear commitment to running the ball, and getting results.
Alec Ogletree is also questionable to play, which is notable, but this front still has talent like Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols, not to mention Roquan Smith at linebacker. This is a group that is clearly capable of playing better than they have for most of the year.
The Steelers have rushed for at least 115 yards in each of the past three games, during which they have recorded at least 30 rushing attempts. They didn’t have more than 75 rushing yards in any of the first four games—though they also didn’t attempt more than 21 rushes in any of them, usually 15 or fewer.
It’s still hard to get a true read on their rushing game because of that. Their totals have accumulated, but they’re also running more. Their success rate is pretty good, for the most part, but they also fail in key moments, and their overall efficiency is distinctly below average.
How will that manifest against the Bears’ front today—a team that is desperate for a win after dropping three straight? This is still a prideful group, which has logged some meaningful time together. This won’t be as easy as many might be thinking.