The Pittsburgh Steelers have limped to a 1-2 start this season after their electric 1-0 start. It has been tough sledding the last two weeks. The offense has been struggling to put points on the board and the defense is having a tough time staying off the field. All in all, it’s been rough to watch.
One of the biggest reasons for this has been the team’s struggle to get the run going and to stop opponents running the ball. As of right now, offensively they rank 22nd as a team in rush yards per game. An improvement from last season, but nowhere near where they want to be.
Running back, Najee Harris ranks 32nd in rushing yards currently, compared to last year when he finished 4th overall.
The defense on the other hand ranks 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. A slight improvement from last year when they finished dead last. Again, not where they would like to be.
The defense does have a small excuse. They are without reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year, TJ Watt for the time being, but regardless of this, it’s hard to imagine they’d jump up 13 or more spots and be in the top half of the league in this category. Bottom line, they have to be better.
Steelers Numbers With Strong Run Game
How good are the Steelers when they have 100 yards rushing as a team? Let’s take a look at last season. The team was 5-2-1 when they had over 100 rushing yards. In both losses, the team had over 100 yards rushing against.
Last season when the team had less than 100 yards rushing, they went 4-5. This all points to the same thing; this team needs to control the run game on both sides of the ball.
How do they do it is the question? Harris recently said he has to flat out be better. He took a lot of the blame for the poor performances lately, and asked the media to stop scrutinizing the offensive line.
He’s not entirely wrong here. The offensive line has definitely improved each and every game, evidence of their recent jump in the PFF rankings, which is normally very critical of anything and everything Steelers.
The offensive line needs to keep doing what it’s doing, and Harris needs to do what he said, and that’s to trust them more. He needs to hit the holes in front of him and run downhill. When he does this, he’s extremely difficult to take down and is a nightmare for defenses.
The defense on the other hand needs to start being more physical. Linebacker, Myles Jack said it best this week. They are simply giving offenses too much. The defense needs to make offenses beat them. They need to start shedding blocks and crushing anything and everything in front of them.
The benching of Tyson Alualu for Montravius Adams is a step in the right direction. Take a look at these yards per carry stats when one’s on the field and one isn’t:
It’s a small sample size, but it is concerning in regards to Alualu who has been a focal point in the Steelers run defense these last few years. Adams came in last year and made an immediate impact.
Again, not having Watt certainly hurts. He is their best player in general and causes mayhem in every game he’s in. The standard is the standard though, and it’s always been a next man up mentality in this locker room.
The team needs to hunker down and get this portion of the game right. If they do, I believe true results will start tilting in their favor. Their next opportunity to do so will come Sunday against the New York Jets. They will look to get back to .500 and head into a tough stretch of games in a better position than they’re currently in.