The Pittsburgh Steelers’ run defense ranks 32nd both in total yards allowed and in yards per carry, allowing 2,141 rushing yards on 442 attempts with 16 rushing touchdowns, to the tune of a very robust 4.8 yards per rushing attempt.
They have allowed over 100 rushing yards in eight consecutive games, and in 11 of their past 12. There is only one game all season in which they allowed fewer than 96 rushing yards, that being Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders, holding them to just 52 yards despite 25 attempts—without their starting running back at the time, mind you.
So what do you think the Steelers expect to see on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns? Would you imagine that they will be running the ball? Defensive coordinator Keith Butler didn’t exactly go to bat for his unit when asked if he expects to see Cleveland run the ball 50 times. “Sure. I would. No doubt”.
Cleveland has the third-ranked rushing offense, led by Pro Bowler Nick Chubb, with 2,173 rushing yards as a team on 424 attempts with 19 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Chubb is responsible for 1,143 yards on 207 attempts this season in 12 games, with eight scores.
“I think Chubb is the best running back in the league”, Butler said. “He does a great job of seeing. He’s got great vision. He does a great job accelerating through holes when he sees the hole. It’ll be a challenge for us, big-time challenge for us, like it always is”.
The Steelers actually did alright the last time these two teams played, limiting Cleveland to 96 rushing yards on 23 attempts, Chubb accounting for 61 on 16 attempts. “We played them pretty well last time, but he still got that — I mean, second play of the game he gets a good run on us, so we got to do a good job trying to control him as much as we can”, the Steelers’ defensive coordinator recalled.
“They’re going to figure out ways to find holes in it, and we can’t do the same thing, exact same thing we did last time”, he added. “We got to change some things up on them. They did a good job hitting a couple big plays on us”.
With both the Steelers and the Browns fighting for their playoff lives, the expectation on both sides is that they will see best-on-best. It’s hard to say what the Steelers’ best is, but it’s clear for the Browns.
“They’re going to do what they do best, and if I’m them, I’m running the ball”, Butler acknowledged—which, of course they will. “I would definitely run the ball. We got to be able to stop the run and then get them in passing situations and see what we can do”.