Found January 25, 2013 on
SteelBlitz Steelers Blog:
The Pittsburgh Steelers run game is not what it used to be. During the 2005 season the Steelers won a Super Bowl behind Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis and the run game. They passed the ball only when they needed too and Ben Roethlisberger only averaged 15 completions per game during the regular season. In comparison Roethlisberger averaged almost 24 completions per game in 2012 including only nine against the Chiefs in the game when he was injured.
Roethlisberger was drafted by the Steelers in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft and has been their starting quarterback for all but two of those games (not including games missed by injury). When the Steelers drafted Roethlisberger he was meant to sit behind Tommy Maddux for a season before taking over as the starter.
However, an injury to Maddux in the second week of the 2004 season forced Roethlisberger into NFL action sooner than planned. The Steelers lost that week 2 match-up to the Baltimore Ravens and Roethlisberger became the starting quarterback due to injury.
The Steelers would not lose another game that season until the AFC Championship. After that point the Steelers have transitioned more and more to a passing team. In 2007 the Steelers won a second Super Bowl with Roethlisberger and the offense although balanced relied more on the pass than the run unlike the team that had won in 2005.
When the Steelers returned to the Super Bowl in 2010 it was Rashard Mendenhall’s best season. During that season the Steelers rushed for almost 2,000 total yards. Since and including the 2005 season the Steelers top rushing seasons have been 2005, 2007 and 2010. Those also happen to be the three years the Steelers made the Super Bowl in that same span.
In 2012 the Steelers recorded their worst rushing total in that same stretch (2005-2012) barely surpassing 1,500 yards on the ground. Knowing that is there any real surprise that they also equaled their worst record for that stretch going 8-8 for the second time since 2005.
The question that now surrounds the team is: how do the Steelers get back to running the ball effectively?
Many people think the team needs to find a feature back during the off-season, but is it the running backs that were the real problem during the 2012 season? The Steelers only had a consistent offensive line void of major injuries for three games during the season. Those three games came in weeks seven, eight, and nine against the Bengals, Redskins and Giants.
The offensive line in those three games was Max Starks, Willie Colon, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and Mike Adams from left to right. During those three games the Steelers started Jonathan Dwyer at running back twice and Isaac Redman once. For those three games the team averaged 155 yards net rushing and their starting backs in those games (Dwyer, Dwyer, and Redman) averaged 125 yards per game on the ground.
Following that game the injury bug once again hit the Steelers offensive line. The Steelers right tackle Adams, who was replacing an injured Marcus Gilbert, was lost for the season as was Colon. The team was forced to start Kelvin Beachum, who was the sixth to last player taken in the 2012 NFL Draft, at right tackle and Pouncey was moved to left guard for a game.
Eventually the Steelers got their first round pick, David DeCastro, back from injury and he started at right guard which meant moving Foster to the right side. This shuffling of the offensive line caused problems in the run game as well as pass protection. Roethlisberger was sacked almost as many times in the four games he played following his injury as he was in the nine games he played before it.
So before everyone writes off Redman and Dwyer as not being very good and decides that the Steelers best bet is to find a feature back in free agency or the 2013 NFL Draft maybe we should start looking at the offensive line’s conditioning program. A healthy offensive line could provide for a very good running game even if Dwyer or Redman is named as the starter in 2013. However, a new “feature” back may have just as many troubles as the running backs in 2012 if he is running behind an inconsistent and oft-injured offensive line.
That’s not to say that a player like Alabama’s Eddie Lacy or South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore couldn’t help this team, but to think that they can single-handedly improve the run game may be a stretch. Another thing to look at when it comes to the run game is the offensive line coach that eventually gets hired. It will be interesting to see who is hired and what kind of scheme he runs. A zone blocking scheme could play to the youth and athleticism the Steelers have on their offensive line and return the Steelers to their days of glory both in winning Super Bowls and running the football.
The post The Steelers Run Game is a Problem, but is it the Running Back’s or Offensive Line’s Fault? appeared first on SteelBlitz.
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