Don’t look now, because the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense certainly isn’t as opposing running backs slip through the cracks of their defensive front. After allowing another team to total 200 or more net rushing yards yesterday versus the Tennessee Titans, this vaunted defense has now allowed as many teams to rush for 200 yards as they have held teams to under 100—three apiece.
The Titans, without Derrick Henry, mind you, stuck to their personality, and they churned out 42 rushing attempts during the game, putting up 201 yards, including a touchdown from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. They averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
But that was the strength of solid, consistent running, because they were generally held without the long gains that we have seen in past weeks. D’Onta Foreman, who had 108 yards on 22 carries, had one 20-yard run, but that was the longest on the day. Head coach Mike Tomlin noted that they limited the explosion plays, but took no solace in that as the broader issues remained.
“I still think we had some lapses in gap control, but the lapses in gap control were six- and seven-yard runs as opposed to some of those in Minnesota”, he said after the game in discussing the run defense. “I don’t know that we were any better, to be honest with you, from a gap-control standpoint. We just minimized some of the explosion plays when they did break”.
He also credited in particular free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had a game-high 14 tackles, for playing a key role in keeping some of those runs from breaking the way they have in other games this year, particularly the last outing against the Vikings.
If you were counting on the return of Carlos Davis as an elixir for the run game, then you surely left yesterday’s game disappointed. The second-year defensive tackle played just his second game of the season, the first since the opener during which he was injured, and his play left much to be desired.
Missing was Isaiah Buggs, who was benched a few weeks ago, due to injury. Also absent was Montravius Adams, who was signed in recent weeks, and who was right away plugged into that nose role. He is currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, but will likely return this week.
Tomlin said that Chris Wormley was unable to finish the game due to an injury, which is why Isaiahh Loudermilk came in and took a lot of reps in the second half. This will be something to monitor, as Wormley has been the only relatively consistent presence this year up front outside of Cameron Heyward.