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New offensive coordinator Matt Canada's biggest job this season is to fix the running game, which was horrendous under Randy Fichtner. It's the main reason why Fichtner isn't the offensive coordinator anymore.
The Steelers ranked 31st in rushing yards per game in 2018 (90.3), 29th (90.4) in 2019 and 32nd in 2020 (84.4). The Steelers' 1,351 rushing yards in 2020 were the fewest in franchise history. Also, the Steelers 84.4 yards rushing per game in 2020 was their fewest average since 1966 when they averaged 78.0 yards rushing per game.
The Steelers' run game started the season off strong with rushing over 100 yards in each of their first five games and had a 100-yard rusher in four of those games. In their last 12 games (including the wild-card game loss to Cleveland), the Steelers rushed over 100 yards just once (Week 11 against Jacksonville) and didn't have a 100-yard rusher in any games during that span.
Steelers president Art Rooney II spoke with members of the Pittsburgh media in late January and he made it clear that the running game needs to get better.
"We have to start with a commitment to the running game, and that's something that I'm not sure we've always had," Rooney said via Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports. "So, as we look at changes to the coaching staff, I think that'll be part of the mindset. Again, in terms of the people in this building at this point, I think everybody understands we're going to have to be better than that. Again, I think that that contributes to the inconsistency that we saw on offense."
Like Fichtner, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett also didn't have his contract renewed following the 2020 season and he was replaced by Adrian Klemm, who was the assistant offensive line coach for the Steelers from 2019-2020. Canada and Klemm need to significantly fix the rushing attack or it's going to be a repeat of last year and Ben Roethlisberger at the ripe age of 39 is going to attempt over 600 passes in a season again.
“All of us realize we didn’t get done everything we wanted to (accomplish) in the run game,” Canada told Steelers.com via Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “All of us who are here are a part of that. We have to improve upon it in a multitude of ways. We are focused on it. We are studying who is running the ball well.
“We’ve always believed in running the football anywhere that I’ve been," Canada said. “You win up front. I believe that we believe that, I know Coach Tomlin believes that. You have to be able to run the football when they know you’re gonna run it and you have to be able to throw the football when they know you’re gonna throw it."