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Dead Men Walking

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Written by Cotter   
September 15, 2009 08:19

In the wake of the Steelers backfield's dismal performance last Thursday, some seem to want to call time of death on the team's running game.

And frankly, that's fair.

23 rushes for 36 yards (a 1.6 yard per carry average) is pathetic by any measure.

But there's a larger issue at play than just the RBs ability to move the ball for positive yardage. In fact, it's a MUCH larger issue -- the Offensive Line.

There's no denying that neither Willie Parker nor Rashard Mendenhall were able to get any kind of production. The question is, though, is that because they themselves aren't able to hit the holes quickly enough or is it because there are no holes to run through?

Everyone has their opinion (of course they do, it's the internets). And I've seen a good amount of supporters for both sides of the debate.

For what it's worth, you can count me in the camp blaming the O-line. You certainly can't take the onus off of the backfield to do it's job, but it's also really hard to do your job when you're not given the opportunities you need to succeed.

The good news is, it's only week 2.

The bad news is, we've got the Bears.

Of course, losing Brian Urlacher certainly knocks them down a few notches. But even still, the Bears have a decent run defense that was ranked 5th in the NFL last season and last week held the Packers to 76 yards on 22 carries (not great, but not bad either). In otherwords, it's not like they're the Browns (who served up 225 yards on the ground last week, albeit predominantly to arguably the NFL's best rusher). Plus, you have to keep in mind that the Titans themselves aren't exactly swiss cheese.

Oh, and just a reminder - Max Starks is the only remaining starter from the Steelers O-line that got us One for the Thumb (a line that was built for running the ball) who's still even in Pittsburgh.

So, I'm curious, what do you make of this whole thing? Is the Steelers running game salvageable? How much of this has to do with the backs themselves? Do you see us having much success come Sunday? And most importantly, are you able to comment on this post (clear your cookies and cache and refresh this page before you try)?

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Comments (7)
  • Dug E. Fresh
    i think it's time to start taking a look at the offensive line coach.

    it is only week 1, when this continues to happen then start to worry, but if teams continue to put 9 in the box (ouch, that's what she said) Ben is going to pass all over them. Teams will have to back off and that will open up the run.

    15 more games to go, i'm not worried. yet...
  • Grumpy
    I'm with you that it's mostly the OL; I didn't see many holes against the Titans. That may be the reason FWP tries to bounce outside so much. I think (hope) that the running game will improve. If not, Ben's stats are going to be incredible.
  • Ian
    The blame is two-fold. There were, on occasions, holes that the O-line did open up in cut-back lanes that the RBs missed. For the most part though, it was the failure of the O-line to get it done. Tennessee had a very good run defense last year. Let's not forget that we ran for all of 73 yards on them last season (including 14 from Ben Roethlisberger scrambles). Take off those 14, and we're back to the RBs getting 59.

    In that game, Parker had 19 carries for 31 yards (1.6 YPC), and Moore had 3 for 28 (including a 17-yarder).

    In last week's game, the Steelers had 23 carries for 36 yards, an average of 1.5 YPC, not wholly different from what Parker did last season. I think this is more a reflection on the O-line and Tennessee's strong run defense than it is our RBs.
  • brainwise  - Plenty of Blame for the OL, but not End of the Wor
    FWP is not a "Bus" type of running back. His thing is speed, and he can only use his explosive asset if he has something to sneak through on the line of scrimmage. If there is no opening, FWP does not get up to FWP velocity and he ends up with no positive yardage.

    While the OL did a fair job of protecting Ben from the pass rush on Thursday, they completely failed in blazing a trail for the running attack.

    Having said that, the Titans have been known as being strong against the run. And it's early in the season, so there is still time to make some adjustments and hopefully improve this aspect of the Steelers offensive attack.
  • Noah
    Totally agree that the OL coach has to shoulder some blame here. How long has it been since our running even looked respectable? Larry Zierlein (he is our OL coach right?) has to go....sooner rather than later....
  • Noah
    Ok, I like this computer in this lab.. I COMMENTED!
  • Cotter
    I appreciate all your opinions, guys! Thanks for commenting!

    I deliberately didn't say anything about it in this post, but is there also something to the plays that are called? I'm not saying let's pile on Bruce Arians (though I'm sure many of you would like to, despite the fact that he's a Super Bowl winning OC and Ben has improved immensely under him). Just, maybe if we used our personnel more in a manner which suits their abilities. Nahmeen?
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