Of the many takeaways for the Pittsburgh Steelers from Sunday’s 41-10, Week 12 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the biggest was a need to improve their game in defending the run. And on the other side of the ball, the ground game provided another of the game’s biggest takeaways, as Pittsburgh was shut down rushing for the second time this season by Cincinnati.
The game script, Pittsburgh trailing by multiple touchdowns very early in the game, played a part in limiting the Steelers’ rushing gameplan, but in the 15 carries the Steelers took, the team gained only 51 yards, one of their smallest outputs of the season. Speaking following the game in audio shared by the team, veteran guard Trai Turner stressed the need to study Sunday’s film, and use it to make corrections and get the ground game back to the way it was playing in recent weeks prior to the rematch with the Bengals.
“I just think we need to watch this film and learn from it, grow from it. Definitely not the showing that we wanted, definitely walking away not happy,” Turner said. “So just able to watch the film, assess what happened, and go from there.”
What happened was a second strong showing by the Bengals in stopping the Steelers in the ground, specifically zeroing in on Rookie of the Year contender Najee Harris. On Sunday, Harris managed only 23 yards on his eight carries, with back-ups Kalen Ballage, Benny Snell, and Anthony McFarland combining for another 28 yards on seven carries. Nearly all those yards came on Ballage’s three attempts, which went for 21 yards.
That was an encore performance for the Bengals from their Week 3 win over Pittsburgh, which was the last time the Steelers had been held to so few yards on the ground. In that one, 15 carries went for 45 yards, Harris taking all but one of them and finishing with 40 yards.
Last week, the L.A. Chargers nearly held the Steelers to as few yards as Cincinnati did on Sunday. L.A. allowed 55 rushing yards in a 41-37 win, and that game combined with Sunday are a disappointing two-week showing for Pittsburgh. Combined, the team has 106 rushing yards in those contests, a regression after the team had 100-plus yards in five straight games, four of which ended up in wins for the team.
A return to that form, which played a part in that winning streak for the team and which had them in Wild Card contention, would be welcomed as soon as possible, with Pittsburgh already one spot out of the postseason prior to Sunday’s loss.
“You watch the film. You make your corrections, you see what went well, try to build upon it, and continue to work throughout the week. It’s going to be another opponent. So we got to get better, and got to get better fast,” Turner said.
Pittsburgh plays a pair of games in quick succession coming up. Next Sunday is another important in-division contest, against the Baltimore Ravens, and then the team turns around for a Thursday Night Football game against the Minnesota Vikings. Baltimore offers the tougher test of the two, boasting one of the NFL’s better run defenses, while Minnesota is among the league’s worst in stopping the run.