The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the top rushing teams in the NFL over the course of the past month—believe it or not—a trend that they continued on Sunday in a win over the Atlanta Falcons. Rushing for 154 yards, they have compiled 789 rushing yards over their past five games, which according to Michael Bertsch, is the second-most in any five-game span under head coach Mike Tomlin.
And no surprise it’s been helping drive the Steelers to victories, now 3-1 coming out of the bye, and having rushed for over 150 yards in each of those three wins. Not only is it leading to more wins, but it’s also been good for the offense in general, says left tackle Dan Moore Jr.
“I think it’s us trying to establish a run game early. It’s helping us open our offense,” he said, via transcript. “It’s giving us little flexibility to just do different things and spread things out. It’s helping the passing game. It gives us confidence, as well on offense.”
Of course, almost any offensive lineman is going to talk about how much they love run-blocking. Blocking for the run is an active technique while pass protection is more passive by nature, attacking rather than defending. And it’s a lot more fun—and a lot simpler, though not necessarily easier—to be the attacker.
Although they fell short of the 20-point mark in Atlanta, the offense did move the ball well, and they did score five times on seven meaningful possessions (Pressley Harvin III only punted two times). The other two possessions were the end of either half on which they were not attempting to advance the ball.
Starting running back Najee Harris has obviously been a focal point of the team’s resurgent rushing efforts, and yesterday added another 87 yards on 17 carries, but the Steelers’ ability to pick up yards in a variety of ways has been critical.
Often enough, that has come from rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, though not as much on Sunday. He only gained 14 yards on seven carries, though that includes a kneel-down. Running back Benny Snell Jr. has gotten in the mix the past two weeks as well, and wide receiver jet sweeps continue to be employed.
The Steelers have been executing more running plays than pass plays for the most part since the bye week, and as long as that continues to work and results in wins, one would imagine that they will continue to do it.
Key to all of this is the fact that they have done a better job of staying in front of the chains with success on first and second downs. That has been a vital area in the offense previously missing. Now the final frontier is finishing with seven points instead of three with greater frequency, because consistently scoring only one or two touchdowns at most won’t cut it against the better teams on most weeks.