Devoid of a Running Game, Can the Steelers Mount a Deep Playoff Run?

Published 12/18/2020, 12:35 PM EST
Oct 25, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin congratulates quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19), and wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) after the touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports


For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, a frightening trend has emerged over the past two game weeks. The once undefeated Steelers have gone on and lost 2 in a row. The first against the Washington Football team and then against the Buffalo Bills.

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For the Steelers, there are some glaring inadequacies that need to be addressed. None more so than their inability to run the ball. They rank 31st in the league when it comes to rushing yards per game; a segment of their offense they’ve struggled with in 2019 as well.
With an 11-2 record, the Steelers have already sealed their spot in the Playoffs. But with the glaring deficiency at running the football, can the Steelers do enough to book a spot for themselves in the Super Bowl? Can they even make it to the AFC championship game?

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Pittsburgh Steelers and their inability to run the ball

By now, it’s no secret. The Steelers can’t seem to do anything right while running the football. Averaging just 89.1 rushing yards a game, the Steelers are second-worst only to the Houston Texans. This puts a lot of pressure on Big Ben and his crop of wide receivers. Something we’ll get to in a bit.
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Steelers rushing yards, last 3 games:
68
21
47

The last time they had three games in a row without breaking 70 rushing yards was 1955 https://t.co/BAGVfrG5AM pic.twitter.com/JMIfsL7gOW

— ProFootballReference (@pfref) December 14, 2020

In the game against Washington, the Steelers registered 21 rushing yards. Just 21, in an entire game! The rushing output didn’t see much of a change in their latest loss to the Bills either.
Through 17 carriers, they could muster only 47 yards. Even in terms of rushing touchdowns, they average 0.8 a game. With such poor returns, it’s only natural for coach Mike Tomlin to not go for the running route. This, however, has posed some serious problems for their offense.

Dropped passes and pressure on Big Ben

With an ineffective running game, the Steelers have opted to go for shorter aerial routes to cover up yardage. And with the WR corps boasting of the likes of Juju Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson, why wouldn’t they?
But even in this aspect, the Steelers are faltering. In the game against Washington, the Steelers registered 8 missed passes. With a battered O-line, Mike Tomlin’s side have had to rely on quick short passes to get the job done.
With the pocket closing in fast, Big Ben simply does not get the sort of time he’d like to make the deep plays he’s known for.
Nov 8, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Another aspect to keep in mind is that Roethlisberger, now 38, has just come off a serious elbow injury. One which required surgery and saw him miss almost the entirety of the 2019 season.

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 The Steelers’ offense is one-dimensional. Their failure to run the ball has put a huge load on the receivers and their QB to get them yardage.
And with the passing route faltering as well, they will have a lot of sorting out to do if they are to make a run for the Lombardi trophy.

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Shivayan Roy

493 articles

Shivayan Roy is currently an NFL writer at EssentiallySports. After completing his Masters Diploma in Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Roy functioned as a reporter for Goal.com and extensively covered the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

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