Steelers Must Accept Eagles Challenge To Run Up The Middle Against Them

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.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • http://twitter.com/braziljosh braziljosh

    Agreed, though hopefully they can mix up the play-calling so that those runs aren’t terribly predictable. Or at least add a wrinkle or two in the execution. No shotgun 3 and 2 handoff to Carey Davis – er, you know what I mean.

  • SteelSpine

    Steelers had all preseason with this offensive line & same RBs to practice running up middle, yet still couldnt do it. One offensive lineman injured here or there in preseason is what every team has. Plus all offseason our staff knew Mendy wasnt going to play, & Redman’s always been better at running up-the-middle than Mendy. Yet thru 3 games most run plays have been mismatches of numbers, not enough blockers so too-many-plays our RBs never had any chance from the get-go -that’s failure of staff to plan run blocking. Seen enuff of Steeler staff’s entire offseason’s obvious lack of knowing how to plan run blocking. So why would anyone think a bye week to prepare now is going to make a diference.

    To keep running into walls or now wait till Mendy’s knee is healed & hope opposing defensive coordinators dont know the fact Mendy likes to spin around to outside the walls? Hoping Mendy will be savior (ok I’m guilty of hoping for a spark from him too), but that’s kinda relying on upcoming opposing DCoordinators to be stupid.

    So instead of all that, Better off trying to ride the hot hand, which is light-it-up with Ben -whom is dialed-in this year. Nope this wouldnt be “Steeler ball” but neither is our defense nowadays in case anyone hasnt noticed. We have one of the best pair of starting receivers in the league, one of the best/deepest/overall group receivers which other teams would love to have, & we’re not gonna afford to have this group of receivers next year (Wallace will be gone). Wallace is playing for a contract. Why not ride the best thing we have on offense, which is our receiver group & Ben. Granted this will get Ben killed but this is why this year both our backup QBs are good veterens instead of the 3rd QB being any inexperienced QB.

    To get sucked into running against Eagles because Eagles gave up 91 yards per game on ground thusfar, I understand the optimism but remember Einstein’s definition of insanity: “Insanity is repeating same thing over & over & hoping for a different result.”

  • sean mcmartin

    The O-line is not up to par and Mendenhall is not going to help them block.
    Cowher’s team is just about gone. Guess the Tomlin picks will be the end of the dominating Defensive line. Cowher was a LB he could pick out the Great LB’s,Lloyd, Gildon,Harrison, Chad Scott, brought in Farrior and Kevin Greene,
    Now it’s carter, worlids, spence, timmons.
    I miss Cowher and his ability to find the warriors with the nasty demeanor to kick the Ravens to the back seat. I no longer see those type of guys being brought in.
    Sure Tomiln is book smart and well mannered, But no Cowher. Haley will be the future. Time to impeach Tomlin.