Steelers Running Backs Had Nowhere To Run Against The Lions
In the Sunday win over the Detroit Lions, the Pittsburgh Steelers rushed for a whopping 40 yards on 27 attempts. When you subtract out the four kneel downs and two scrambles by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the game, you’re left with 28 yards rushing on 21 attempts. Of those 21 attempts, six went for negative yardage while four more went for no gain.
When I went back through the all-22 tape of the game, I counted 13 plays in which there was penetration into the backfield. In other words, the Steelers running backs were having to avoid would-be tacklers almost immediately after receiving the handoff from Roethlisberger.
The longest run of the game came on the very first offensive play of the game as rookie Le’Veon Bell ran untouched 13 yards off right tackle thanks to good blocking by tight end Heath Miller, tackle Marcus Gilbert and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Unfortunately, that was the best blocked running play the entire game.
To give you another example of just how poor the run blocking was in the game, 34 of Bell’s 36 rushing yards in the game after first contact, according to Pro Football Focus.
While most of the penetration seemed to come from the left side of the line where Guy Whimper made his first career start at left guard, the right side also was guilty on a few plays. The offensive line as a whole was blown off of the ball on all four of the goal-line runs in addition. Those four runs resulted in a loss of two yards and all were run from the Lions one yard-line.
Things were so bad in the first half that the Steelers pitched-out to Bell on two of their first three running plays in the second half. Those two pitchouts netted five yards and the second one thankfully resulted in a gain of two yards and a first down.
This coming Sunday, the Steelers will play the Cleveland Browns, who have allowed a third-best 3.55 yards per rush so far this season. Heading into the game last Sunday, the Lions were ranked 25th in the league against the run with a 4.5 average. Needless to say, they are now ranked 16th in the league.
The Steelers sorely need left guard Ramon Foster back this week as they must be able to run the football with some success against the Browns. If they are unable to establish even a meager running threat, it could result in a long day for Roethlisberger against one of the better pass defenses in the league.