The 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers could not run the football on offense and could not stop the run on defense. With the 2021 season now over and done with, Steelers team president Art Rooney III made it clear during his annual end-of-season media session that those two failed areas need to be fixed in 2022.
Rooney, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said on Friday that the Steelers’ foundation for 2022 has to be running the ball and stopping the run.
Rooney said the Steelers' foundation for 2022 has to be running the ball and stopping the run. "At times we couldn't stop the run to be successful. Those are things we need to get right. I do think we have core players on both sides of the ball to build around."
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) January 28, 2022
“At times we couldn’t stop the run to be successful,” Rooney reportedly said. “Those are things we need to get right. I do think we have core players on both sides of the ball to build around.”
Rooney’s end-of-season run-game-related directives are not too surprising. After all, the Steelers defense allowed a league-worst average of 146.1 rushing yards per game in 2021 to go along with a league-worst average of 4.99 yards per carry. In four games last season, the Steelers defense allowed more than 200 net yards rushing and that is quite embarrassing.
The Steelers defensive line was minus several key players in 2021, as starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt missed the entire season while nose tackle Tyson Alualu was lost for the year with a season-ending injury early in the team’s Week 2 game. The Steelers’ defensive line was so thin in 2021 that rookie defensive end Issah Loudermilk wound up playing nearly 300 total snaps on that side of the football.
As for the Steelers needing to get better at running the football, that has been the directive from Rooney the last two offseasons that still hasn’t been fixed. The Steelers even spent their first four 2021 draft picks on offensive players, with their first one being used on running back Najee Harris. Two of the other three early draft picks were spent on offensive linemen, center Kendrick Green and tackle Dan Moore Jr., and both went on to play an extremely large number of snaps as rookies, along with Harris.
As an offense, the Steelers averaged 93.1 yards per game rushing in 2021 and that ranked them 29th overall in the NFL. The offense also averaged just 3.85 yards per rush in 2021 and that also ranked 29th overall in the NFL in that stat.
The Steelers obviously have the running back they want moving forward in Harris. Moore is also now expected to be a starter at one of the two tackle spots moving forward, with third-year guard Kevin Dotson expected to start on the right or left side. As for the center position and the other guard and tackle spots, those are positions the Steelers really need to figure out during the offseason.
Green was horrendous at center as a rookie, so the team might choose to see if he can play left guard at the NFL level moving forward. As for the other tackle spot, it will be interesting to see if the Steelers address that position via free agency, the draft or internally.
On the surface, it seems like the Steelers will have an easier job of fixing their run defense that their run offense during the offseason. Rest assured that those will be two of the main goals during the offseason, based on what all Rooney said on Friday.