Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Known more for their “ground & pound” style of play until Ben Roethlisberger began to flourish as a passer, it seems odd to think about how incompetent the Pittsburgh Steelers’ running game has been over the last couple of seasons.
I can understand why many teams have shunned the run rcently, especially since the N.F.L. has become a “pass-first” league over the course of the last two decades. Yet did anyone in “Steeler Nation” believe that their offense would open a regular season with 12 straight quarters without a rushing touchdown?
I know I never did.
Sadly though, here we are. It’s the fourth week of the 2013 regular season, the Steelers are headed “across the pond,” and they are making the trip ranked 31st in the league in total rushing yards (155), 28th in yards per carry (3.0), and not a single member of their team has recorded a rushing touchdown!
To be fair, some of the reasons behind Pittsburgh’s struggles on the ground have been beyond the team’s control. The injuries to Le’Veon Bell and LaRod Stephens-Howling definitely created a hole for this team before they could gain any traction with their running game. The loss of their best offensive lineman, Maurkice Pouncey, to a knee injury in the first quarter of the first regular season game was probably the biggest “football to the groin” of all.
Injuries and shuffled personnel aside, the Steelers were absolutely dreadful when it came to running the football through the first two weeks of the regular season.
While Isaac Redman was busy doubling as a fumbling-machine, Felix Jones was still working himself into the lineup, and Jonathan Dwyer was also getting back into gear since he was re-signed after Stephens-Howling went down with his knee injury, Pittsburgh only racked up 73 combined yards on the ground during their first two games.
Thankfully for the Steelers, their offensive line along with Jones and Dwyer showed some signs of life last weekend against the Bears. Both backs combined to rush for 73 yards, and the number would have been higher had the Steelers not been mired in a 21-point deficit in the middle of the first half and been forced to pass.
In addition to their production from last week, the Steelers should receive another boost in London when Bell makes his regular season debut for the team. How often Bell will play coming off of his foot injury remains a pressing issue, but his presence can only help the team’s current rotation of “Jones & Dwyer.”
On the bright side for Pittsburgh, Minnesota’s defense has had their fair share of issues this year stopping the run. The Vikings currently rank 21st in rushing yards allowed (342) and 24th in yards per carry allowed (4.4), so they are a much better matchup for the Steelers than the Titans, Bengals, and Bears were.
Pittsburgh must find ways to successfully run the ball if they wish to get out of their 0-3 hole, and hopefully they can kick-start some consistency in that area when they are on another continent this weekend.
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