3 questions about Steelers rushing game going into week 5

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner. Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner. Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /
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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

How good is the Steelers rushing game?

Now, this is where things get intriguing, especially breaking down the rushing stats from the last three games. No one wants to take away from how well the Steelers running backs have performed so far, 414 yards in three games is a lot of yardage. Yet by dissecting the rushing game can shed some light as to the actual state of the Steelers rushing game and might give some insight as to what to expect in week four. If there is anything fans should have any concern over, this would be the most pertinent.

The most important thing to note is that unlike the game against the Giants, the Steelers rushing game did not deliver a decisive blow to the opposition allowing the Broncos and Texans chances to come close to winning or keeping the score uncomfortably close late in the game.

In the game against the Broncos, one needs to keep in mind that until  1:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Steelers only had 37 rushing yards until James Conner unleashed a 59-yard rush. Not a stellar performance by any stretch of the imagination. They only padded their rushing stats after the Bronco’s defense was worn down late in the game.

The Steelers did amass 92 yards by the end of the third quarter against the Texans. The effort still failed to keep the Texans from holding a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter. So here is the peculiar statistic about the Steelers rushing game so far. In their first three games, the Steelers have averaged only 74.33 yards a game through the first three quarters or about 24.77 yards per quarter.

The fourth quarter tells a different tale. Over the same three games in the fourth quarter, the Steelers have averaged 65.33 yards per quarter. So why is this alarming? First, the upswing in yardage in the last quarter has come from the fact they played weak teams that by the fourth quarter, the defense was tired enough to allow the Steelers to break rushes, which helped them lock the game away.

Secondly, in 2020 the combined record of the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Houston Texans is a dismal 0-9. They are not very good teams. Even in 2019, despite the Texans having a winning record, all three teams had a combined record of 21-27. All three seemed to have gotten worse since 2019. So the Steelers rushing stats are more than adequate for teams of this stature.

Also, The Giants are currently ranked 31st against the run, Texans are ranked 30th, and the Broncos are 20th. Not really a substantial test of the Steelers rushing game. Week five may not be much of a test either. The eagles are 1-2-1.

Leaving the first crucial test of the Steelers to come after the game with the Eagles when they face Cleveland, Baltimore, both twice, and Tennessee.  The Eagles are, despite their record, ranked fourth against the rush, the  Browns are ranked one against the rush, The Titans are 12th, and the Ravens ranked fourth. Then later the Steelers have the Colts who are 15th currently. So the Steelers running will be put to the test in the coming weeks.

So, it’s too early to start sounding any alarms about the rushing game; however, as the season goes on and the Steelers face opponents of a higher caliber, it will determine how good the Steelers rushing game truly is.