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Stopping The Run Is A Lot More Fun Than Not, Cam Heyward Deadpans

It’s been a relatively rough year for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the run defense category. In fact, rough probably isn’t the right word to describe what’s been a historically terrible season in franchise history in that specific category.

With a number of injuries up front to guys like Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt, not to mention the drop in play from inside linebackers Devin Bush and Joe Schobert, the Steelers’ run defense hasn’t been up to snuff, ranking 32nd in the league having allowed 2,483 rushing yards on the year and a league-worst 5.0 yards per carry, according to NFL.com’s team defensive stats.

Down the stretch, the Steelers allowed an average of 165 yards per game on the ground, including 249 yards on the ground in the 16-13 win in overtime over the Baltimore Ravens.

That’s never happened in the history of Steelers’ football, which makes it all the more improbable that this team is somehow in the playoffs.

Despite the struggles to stop the run, the Steelers’ defense tends to tighten up in the red zone, which has been monumental. On the year, the Steelers have one of the top defenses in the red zone, allowing teams to score touchdowns roughly 50% of the time.

Speaking to reporters Thursday during his weekly media availability, Steelers’ defensive captain Cameron Heyward talked about the struggles in stopping the run, but also touched on why the Steelers’ defense is able to tighten up in the red zone.

“It’s more compact, especially in the red zone,” Heyward said to reporters Thursday, according to video via Steelers.com. “Your corners and safeties are closer to the line of scrimmage. I always think with red zone defense, it’s hard to pass the ball as well, because the holes get smaller.

“But man, I would like to stop the run. I think when you look at it, stopping the run is way more fun than not stopping the run,” Heyward added, laughing in the process.

Heyward has been on top of stopping the run all season long, pinpointing that as the reason the Steelers’ defense has struggled to get off the field throughout the season.

Fortunately for the Steelers ahead of the Wild Card matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, the offense runs through the right arm of Patrick Mahomes. While the Chiefs had success on the ground in the Week 16 win, it remains a pass-first offense with Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.

Stopping the run in Kansas City though makes the Chiefs one-dimensional, allowing Heyward, T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith and Chris Wormley to tee off on Mahomes in the pocket, potentially flipping the game into the Steelers’ favor.

It can be demoralizing watching a team run right down your throat like the Ravens did on Sunday. But credit to the Steelers this season: when they get gashed, they come back the next week and correct the problem in a big way. That should be the expectation on Sunday in Kansas City, making it more fun for Heyward and Co.

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