As expected, Felix Jones will get the start Sunday night at running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Chicago Bears, according to head coach Mike Tomlin.
“Felix Jones is going to get the start, and then we’re going to supplement him with the others,” Tomlin told Bill Hillgrove during his weekly pre game interview.
While we could see a little more outside zone this week against the Bears, Tomlin seems set to go with a simple approach as it relates to the running game.
“I think more than anything we need to be more detailed, and in order to get that we’re going to reduce the number of runs we’ll be executing tonight,” Tomlin said. “We acknowledge we have a number of new guys and some young guys playing, and so we’re going to bring the game to them in an effort to get the quality of play that we desire.”
Center Fernando Velasco is one of those new guys whom Tomlin is referring to, and he will be making his second straight start since being signed to the roster after Maurkice Pouncey was lost for the season in the opener against the Tennessee Titans.
“I thought he represented himself very well,” Tomlin said of Velasco’s performance Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. “He gave me what I anticipated him giving me in that he is a natural center.”
The Steelers offense absolutely has to get the running game going this week after rushing for a franchise low 75 yards in their first two games. Despite the awful start, however, new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he thinks the line is close to jelling.
“It’s not like they’re young anymore. I think we’re close. Sometimes it doesn’t look like we’re close, but we are,” Bicknell told the paper.
The Steelers woes on offense have been on first and second downs, and it has resulted in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger having to throw long for the chains on third downs as a result. That makes the offense easy to defend and allows pass rushers to pin their ears back in addition.
Should Tomlin’s simple run game approach not work Sunday night, and the Steelers fall to 0-3 to start the season, the decisions that were made that include the hiring of Bicknell and the drafting of Marcus Gilbert, Mike Adams and David DeCastro will surely be questioned even more than they already have been up until this point.
The Steelers don’t have any depth on their offensive line and even though rookie running back Le’Veon Bell might be ready to return as early as next Sunday if he does not suit up against the Bears, it might not make any difference if they can’t provide space for him to run. That’s as simple as it gets.