The regular season marks the culmination of an extensive investigation into who your team will be that year. By this point, you’ve gone through free agency, the draft, training camp, and the preseason. You feel good in your decisions insofar as you can create clarity without having played meaningful games. But there are still plenty of uncertainties that remain, whether at the start of the regular season or the end, and new ones continually develop over time.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will record 30-plus rushing attempts against the Detroit Lions today.
Explanation: The Steelers have rushed at least 30 times in each of their past four games, something that has only happened twice before in the Mike Tomlin era, and not in over a decade. They have won each of those games. Neither of the previous two streaks reached five games.
Running the ball is their offense now, and it’s built around the RPO plan that was installed and extensively utilized when the streak started. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the one who is checking into a lot of these running plays based on what he sees from defenses.
Thirty carries is a tough threshold to reach, but they’re playing against an opponent this week that has spent an awful lot of time trailing, and which has one of the worst run defenses in the league. There’s no reason to think that Najee Harris shouldn’t get a lot of work.
And offensive coordinator Matt Canada also likes to get the motion game involved, with some sweeps and reverses going to wide receivers like Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Those all count toward the rushing total.
This isn’t suddenly the 2004 offense. It’s not likely that the Steelers are going to continue to run the ball repeatedly. And part of the reason they have been able to run the ball as much as they have is because they have been able to control the ball better. The Lions, though, are actually a good possession team, ranking third and the league in average plays per drive, which may well surprise you.
We are probably going to see more ‘run-game extension’ plays as we move forward, short passing plays that almost serve as long handoffs, with Chase Claypool unavailable and Diontae Johnson kind of on his own out there, as well.