As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take on the Philadelphia Eagles this coming Sunday at Heinz Field, the one thing that sticks out on tape is that the Eagles defense dares you to run against their wide 9 look up front.
As bad as the Steelers running game has been so far this season, they must accept the Eagles dare if they want to win this game. They don\’t have to run 30 times the game or for 5 yard per carry average, but they must run enough up the middle to slow down the vaunted pass rush.
Through the first four games that they have played this season, the Eagles defense has allowed an average of 91.5 yards per game rushing and 3.81 yards per carry. The Steelers offense would probably kill to hit both of those marks in this game and hopefully they can.
While those allowed averages have the Eagles ranked 12th and 11th overall in the league respectively, they have allowed an average of 6.65 per carry up the middle against them on 26 carries. This has them ranked 31st in the league in that stat.
The Eagles linebackers do a great job of protecting the edges, but struggle with runs up the gut, and this is exactly where the Steelers offense needs to try and run. Good old fashion power up the middle.
While not yet guaranteed, it looks as if running back Rashard Mendenhall will make his season debut on Sunday. Regardless, Isaac Redman will see time as well. The idea is to bang both backs inside enough so that the Eagles safeties have to respect the run more and expose their corners playing man outside.
While the New York Giants did not run the ball particularly well from a stat perspective Sunday night, they ran it enough that it brought play action into play. More than once the Eagles linebackers and safeties bit on it. The Eagles defense likes to play bump and run coverage outside from both a press and off man looks, and the play action set up several shots down the field for Eli Manning.
The Giants managed 5 explosive passing plays Sunday night and Manning threw for over 300 yards. Although the Giants did not win the game, they were in a position to win it at the end. The Giants ran 19 total times in the game to keep the Eagles honest. Was it enough? I think so, and I also think the Steelers interior line is comparable to that of the Giants.
The yards will be there up the middle on Sunday for the Steelers offense and if there was ever a week to get the running game off of the snide, this would be the week. Right up the middle and behind Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey.