While the Pittsburgh Steelers over the course of the full season have still leaned heavily to the pass—270 to 163 in terms of pass-run ratio—the mix has grown more balanced in recent weeks. Pittsburgh has attempted 30 or more rushes, for example, in each of the past three games after being under 20 in the three that preceded it, and just 21 in the opener—including kneeldowns.
That suits this young offensive line just fine, as rookie left tackle Dan Moore Jr. told reporters earlier today. “100 percent, definitely”, they’re feeling good about the run-pass mix. “I think as an offensive lineman, us specifically, we try to pride ourselves in the run game, so that’s kind of how we get our juice and our flow in the game”.
While the run game hasn’t always been the most efficient in the league—if you go by more traditional statistics like yards per carry, you’re inevitably going to come away underwhelmed—the unit has really picked up the run success rate over the course of the past month, and it’s no surprise that it’s helped translate into wins. It doesn’t hurt that it is the offensive line that this group wants to be.
When Moore was asked what he wants their identity to be, he called themselves “a physical offensive line that can pound you and run away with the game in the fourth quarter”. They still need to work on the pounding part, and especially the running away with the game in the fourth quarter part, but as long as they’re continuing to head in the right direction, the news is good.
After all, it takes time when you’re dealing with a bunch of young and inexperienced players. With two rookie linemen, a rookie runner, a rookie tight end, a couple second-year and other similarly inexperienced guys all part of the sequence—not to mention a new offensive line coach and offensive coordinator—it’s going to take some time to establish some cohesion.
The question is whether or not they can maintain a certain level of play that still leads to wins while they continue to grow. They are coming up on what is perceived to be a short soft stretch in their schedule against the Bears and Lions, but after that, they get the Chargers, Bengals, and Ravens all in a row.
The Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak that merely sufficed to claw them back over .500 for the first time since week one. The commitment to running the ball has certainly been a part of that. But the work must continue, and must continue to yield better results as we move forward.