‘I Don’t Think We Were Bashful About Our Intentions:’ Tomlin Emphasizes Importance Of Strong Run Game To Aid Pickett

When the Pittsburgh Steelers offense started to take off in the second half of the season last year, it was largely due to the emergence of the team’s run game. With a rookie quarterback, and increased production out of running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren behind an improved offensive line helped elevate Pittsburgh’s offense en route to finishing 7-2 in 2022. Going forward, the Steelers are prioritizing the run game, as Mike Tomlin reporters, including Dale Lolley of, that a good run game is a benefit for a young quarterback.

“A good running game aids the quarterback, particularly a young quarterback,” Tomlin said via an article by Lolley on “I don’t think we were bashful about our intentions there. And we won’t be moving forward.”

The Steelers invested heavily in the running back position, spending a first-round pick in 2021 on Harris. While the merits of taking a first-round running back are up for debate, having someone with the pedigree and ability of Harris is clearly a key for Pittsburgh. Taking the load off a young quarterback with a good run game that can chew clock and pick up 4-5 yards per carry is key, especially with an offense that was as limited in terms of play-calling as the Steelers was last season.

At some point though, the Steelers have to take the kid gloves off Pickett. He showed his clutch gene off by leading back-to-back game-winning drives in Weeks 16 and 17 last year, but he didn’t really take shots down the field. While the team’s ball control offense worked for them down the stretch last year, they need to let Pickett air the ball out and not be as reliant on the run game being successful in 2022.

That’s not say that a successful run game isn’t a major benefit, and getting a third-straight 1,000-yard+ season out of Harris is important in 2023. But the team has to give Pickett more freedom in the offense next season. It’s going to be essential to his development, and being able to throw the ball sets up the run just as well, if not better, as running the ball sets up the pass.

Essentially, the Steelers need a more balanced offense and they need to let Pickett show why the team spent a first-round pick on him. A run-focused offense isn’t an issue, but the team selected Pickett to be their franchise quarterback. Let him make plays without relying on Harris and Warren to control the clock and win a low-scoring game week in and week out. While that’s the way it seems like Tomlin wants to play, it’s just going to hinder Pickett’s long-term development if the team is overly reliant on the run.

Hopefully, in 2023, Pickett gets more freedom and he can lead the team to more wins with a good run game complimenting him. But if the team doesn’t give Pickett the freedom to run the offense and again limits hot routes, we might never see him unlock his full potential.

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