Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Even more running blues: An alarming trend on defense

It's an NFL truism for a reason. Teams that don't run the ball, and can't stop the run, lose..

The Steelers haven't run the ball, and they can't stop the run. That latter part is especially worrying.

The late Big Daddy Lipscomb
would not tolerate this.
The Steelers rank 29th in the NFL against the run, with only St. Louis, Green Bay and Oakland behind them. Worse, the Steelers' 5.0 yards-per-rushing-attempt-against is tied for worst in the league, and opponents know it.

Despite playing from behind, Cleveland kept running the ball. Baltimore ran the ball, consistently, especially to the right side of their offensive line. The Steelers couldn't stop it.

There's nothing more demoralizing to a football team than knowing it cannot stop the run.

Steelers' opponents are averaging 170.0 yards per game on the ground vs. the Steelers. That cannot continue. If it does, this is going to be a very long season.

Where are the linebackers?  Where's the front seven? So far, this defense is not even a shadow of the legendary Steel Curtain. This defense has shown itself to be anything but stout. It has shown no ferocity. It does not strike fear.

If personnel changes need to be made, make 'em. It's early in the season, but it's later than you think.

As for the offense ...
As noted in yesterday's post, Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin's Steelers' offense can run the ball effectively, when they do it, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt.

It's just that Haley and Company don't run the ball much, with just 47 rushing attempts in the first two games. Cincinnati had almost that many carries (45) in one game, last Sunday's win over Atlanta.

Le'Veon Bell had just 11 carries in Sunday night's loss at Baltimore. This, despite the fact that Bell was on the field for 30 of the offense's 33 snaps in the first half, and the game stayed close until the fourth quarter.  It's curious, too, in retrospect, when we learn that Roethlisberger still remains sore from the hit that Courtney Upshaw delivered on the first series of the game. No wonder his passes were off. And the Steelers were on the road in a noisy environment. You'd think that Haley and Co. -- whomever was doing the play-calling -- would have wanted to run the ball more. They just chose not to.

The Steelers have a lot of problems. They may not be able to fix the lack of talent in certain spots immediately, but they can fix play-calling and schemes.  So farm there's been no consistency or traction in the offensive running game.

Of course, then, too, players have to make plays. So far, too many players aren't making the plays that need to be made.

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