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.

  • steeltown

    DET may allow a 4.5avg per run but they also rank near the top in yds per game allowed as well as rushing TDs allowed (5) this season. The Browns do have a better yds per run allowed as a Defense but they also have allowed almost twice as many rushing TDs this year. In the end though, both Teams mentioned have been pretty stout against the run


    Shame we aren’t able to plug in Nick EmberNasty instead of Whimper.


    I thought Kelvin Beachum was the backup to Foster at Guard. And then at LT we would just put…….put………….. oh yeah…. I forgot.

  • Riverstko

    We have too many switch players on the o line. Its a positive that can be a negative. They need to concentrate more on one position. Its like one week their playing RT, next week LG, after that RG. It can be difficult for a o lineman.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    I am scared to death that our ot s are going up against a pass rush and blitz package that will be a big factor against our guys, coupled with the fact, the browns may be able to lock down brown with one of the best cb s in the league. Even though the Brown QB is nothing to write home about, they do have some capable receivers and our man coverage is poor at best. If we can’t get after their QB, ouch. Turnovers and field position will be important. Weather is supposed to suck as well.

  • dgh57

    You usually like to establish your run game first to open up the passing game. The fact that Big Ben won the AFC Player of the Week without even a decent run game tells you just how good Ben and the WRs did play when all is said and done.

  • RMSteeler

    Other teams seem to have the Steeler’s snap count well scouted. It seems the Steelers OL waits to see the ball snapped, and defenses are reacting faster than the OL. The great running teams (not many anymore) know the snap count and FIRE on it gaining the advantage. If the OL was diciplined enough, Ben could hard count some plays to draw offsides and keep the DEF guessing, opening up for better running lanes.

  • Dom

    “34 of Bell’s 36 rushing yards came after contact” – That’s amazing, He is incredibly good at avoiding that first defender who reaches him – Unfortunately that is all too often a few yards behind the line of scrimmage and he has to fight to get anything like positive yardage.

  • treeher

    If temps will be in low 20’s with snow or sleet, the passing game will suffer and we’ll have to be able to run.

  • charles

    I am thankful for Whimper and the effort a bad athlete is giving us. But it was obvious that Ramon Foster is a notch above within the first few plays of Sundays game. Overall, the Steelers are deploying a ragtag Oline again this year. This injury bug has a basis and I would not be surprised if it wasn’t the horrible condition that Heinz field is in CONSTANTLY. Stop playing four games a weekend on it or get artificial turf!!!!