The Pittsburgh Steelers have next on their docket the only remaining team on their schedule that is currently more than one game above the .500 mark in the form of the Giants, who are coming off a 27-13 victory over the Browns, and are riding a six-game winning streak, which, along with the Dolphins, is the longest active streak in the league behind the Cowboys.
The Giants are, by the way, the only team this year to have beaten the Cowboys, in the season opener. Many have pointed out they their record has not been earned through dominance by any means, as attested to by their relatively small total margin of victory for an 8-3 record. And there is certainly some truth to that.
Despite the fact that they have a quality group of wide receivers and a quarterback who can heave the ball down the field, their passing game remains inconsistent. But it is their rushing offense that has proven to be particularly impotent this year, and, in fact, they actually rank 31st in the league in terms of total rushing yards, averaging just under 80 yards per game.
That is not offset by a prolific passing offense, as they place only 12th in the passing yardage category, averaging 256 yards per game through the air. And they have been averaging just 21 points scored per game, which is actually amazingly bad for a team with a .727 winning percentage.
But that is good for the Steelers and their still-emerging defensive unit, which has been working to adapt without their best defensive lineman and their defensive captain, which has been particularly important when it comes to their run defense.
In the first three games in which Heyward was either out injured or playing through the injury that ended up landing him on injured reserve, the Steelers did not perform well in terms of the run defense at all. But over the course of the past two games, the run defense has been strong.
And yes, that has coincided with two teams who lack a strong rushing presence in the form of the Browns and the Colts. But this is a unit that needs to see success as part of its progression. The confidence of the young players, the likes of Javon Hargrave and Sean Davis, is an important step in their own evolution, and in the evolution of the defense as a whole.
The Giants’ leading rusher is Rashad Jennings, who has 115 rushing attempts for just 395 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per rushing attempt. He has two rushing touchdowns, and they have a total of five rushing touchdowns on the season.
The Steelers have a golden opportunity to stack three games in a row of playing strong run defense, because they have been lined up with three straight teams that lack a quality run offense. And if you think this is unimportant, then consider that they play the Bills in Buffalo the following week, the team with the top rushing offense in the league.