2016 South Side Questions: Will Steelers Continue Run Strategy Versus Giants?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Will the Steelers stick with their strategy of focusing on the ground game against the Giants’ strong rushing defense?

For the past two games, the Steelers have run the ball a lot. And with that strategy has also come a lot of obvious run looks. That was especially the case on Thursday’s game, during which they ran a whopping 17 plays out of personnel sets that had just one wide receiver on the field, which represented nearly a third and their total plays, including penalties.

Now, the Steelers turned to the ground, and then they won two games after losing four in a row. That has to be some motivation to continue to do so on some level, seeing how much success they’ve had, about 150 rushing yards per game in that period and a couple of scores on the ground mixed in as well.

But I have written about this previously and speculated whether or not that personnel alignments were simply a reaction to their opponents. The Browns and the Colts have among the worst rushing defenses in the league. So, they showed a lot of rushing looks, and they rushed a lot, and they had success. There is not rinse and repeat against a quality rushing defense, however.

The team has broken out a bit of everything lately, using a lot of the fullback in the last game, and a lot of the tackle-eligible. If they think that they can win those same matchups against the Giants, then I suppose they will try.

But then, the real question perhaps becomes not whether or not they will go into the game planning to do that, but whether or not they will be able to find success doing that—and if not, if they will abandon it.

There have been times this year in which the Steelers have abandoned the run too soon, and other times when they should have abandoned it, but did not. But right now, we have a hot hand rushing offense going up against a hot hand rushing defense. Let’s see who wins, and if the home field truly provides an advantage.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • HiVul

    Love what the OL did over the last 2 weeks, but I don’t know about this one. I don’t think that they should pound the ball early or they’ll probably start slow and won’t have an early lead to protect the defense.

    As you guys have written about, the Giants don’t have great coverage LBs or great coverage underneath in general. This is a game where LB needs to have around 10 catches and I can’t really predict his stat line, but Eli Rogers will need be a presence.

    Can’t be one dimensional, but I’m hoping they abuse them with the quick passing game and let it open up the run and deep ball.

  • falconsaftey43

    I agree with you. Can’t abandon the run though either. Speaking of our short passing game, when was the last time we got the ball to one of our WRs on a short crosser to give them a chance to get some YAC? Seems like they used to do that all the time, but haven’t seen it hardly at all this year.

  • Nolrog

    They did a good job the last 2 weeks preparing the offense to attack the weaknesses of the defenses they were playing. The Giants have a good rushing defense and a passing defense that’s not that good. So it would make sense to go after them thru the air.

  • RickM

    Agree, you play to the weakness of the D as your article suggests. Against Cleveland and Indy we successfully attacked their poor run D’s on the ground. Against Baltimore we foolishly played to their strength trying to establish a run game and leaving ourselves with all sorts of 2nd/3rd and longs. The Giants have the 5th-best rushing D and the 24th-best passing D. Go after them early through the air and that’ll loosen up their run D.

  • nutty32

    Makes sense to run/quick pass until the safeties start creeping down and/or their LBs stay home. I like Le’veon & the O-line’s chances against any team’s front 7. Pick your poison. Stuff the run, Bombs away down the sidelines or ladrius working the deep middle. Steeler o has the talent and schemes; everything comes down to execution.

  • LucasY59

    Giants have talent on the DL (Harrison, JPP, Vernon) and the Secondary (Collins, DRC, Jenkins) but the LBs are definitely the weak link on their D, I think a balanced run/pass attack should work ok (especially if they can force the LBs into situations that favor the Steelers)

  • dany

    Cant wait to see the defensive scouting report on the giants. Why is their pass defense so bad? Janoris big free agent signing in march, Cromartie big one last year, Eli apple first rounder this year, Collins first rounder last year. Something doesn’t fit!

  • Matthew Marczi

    This would be a great game to break out the RPOs.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Their corners are of the boom-or-bust variety who like to attack the ball. When they don’t get home, bad things happen. But when they do, good things happen. Landon Collins is a great safety, but they haven’t had stability at the other safety spot this year since Darian Thompson has been injured. Apple has had similar struggles to Burns, and he did battle some injuries as well. Plus, some of that is on the linebackers against TEs and RBs, and their pass rush has not been up to snuff.

  • dany

    oh free preview! thanks!