Maturing Run Defense Needs Another Good Showing Before Facing Bills’ Top Rushing Attack

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • nutty32

    Tuitt has done a great job of taking up some of the slack from the Hayward in injury. In fact, if were drafting today I’d take tuitt over Cam. Tuitt is going to score some serious money in his next deal so will try not to get too attached as he will probably chase the big money and move on to another team.

  • srdan

    you went all nutty on me after the first sentence

  • nutty32

    300 pound lineman who can run with a nose for the ball are in high demand. Steelers don’t usually spend big on the D-line.

  • srdan

    You need to look at the salary cap situation. If timmons is let go, Steelers can sign AB, Bell, Tuitt and another big name FA if they chose. The money is there. But your suggestion that they won’t give it to a defensive player they absolutely love because he plays a certain position because of history is worth exploring. In my opinion the signing of Hayward, Kiesel, Smith, Kemo, Casey to some lucrative contracts just reinforces how much they value the Dline. They have always been a team that wants to make the other offense one dimensional by stopping hte run. Then you look at the depth at the DE. Nothing. If he left we would be in deep doo-doo. Then you look at how players are retained and teh steelers belief to grow their organization organically rather than reaching for FA. And then you look at the talnet you mention.

    If they don’t sign him it would be egregious. Weirder things have happened, but unless he wants to go play for his hometown dolphins, I don’t see it playing out any other way than smith, hampton, kiesel and cam’s career.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Jennings better not gain 200 yards or there will civil unrest in Pittsburgh

  • nutty32

    Casey got paid well compared to other NTs, but the rest weren’t really top pay days when compared with peers. That’s the Steeler way, they keep DL that over produce with some flaw they coach up to good but not great DL money. They figure the DL is more fungible than talent at LB or DB in their system. Things are changing but they only really ask the DL to clog lanes & keep blockers off the LB.