(Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
The Steelers' run game has not been successful since the beginning of November, rushing for 48 yards or fewer in six of their eight games leading up to the Steelers-Bengals game this past Monday night.
They improved in the run game department against Cincinnati thanks to the efforts of Benny Snell Jr., who rushed for 84 yards on 18 carries (4.7 average) and a touchdown. As a team, the Steelers rushed for 86 yards on 23 carries (3.7 average). The run game still needs to be better, but 86 yards on the ground is definitely serviceable compared to what they rushed for against the Washington Football Team (21 yards) and Buffalo Bills (47 yards) in the weeks before.
“You got to lock on blocks better,” Maurkice Pouncey said on Thursday about improving as an offensive line. “You gotta be able to double-team guys. You gotta be able to get on guys and actually hit the right holes. There are a lot of things that have to play into it."
The offensive line has been heavily criticized by members of the media and fans for the issues in the run game. ESPN analyst Booger McFarland during a segment last week flat out called the Steelers' offensive line "soft."
"Everybody is talking about they can't run the football, they can't do this. Here's the biggest problem in Pittsburgh, the guys on defense are hurt, but from an offensive standpoint, the offensive line has been playing terrible, they are soft," McFarland said.
Last week, Maurkice Pouncey responded to McFarland's comment about the offensive line being "soft" on Instagram saying, "Booger these quotes are the same reason why you are not on Monday Night Football anymore." McFarland was a color analyst on MNF for two years (2018-2019) before he was reassigned by ESPN in May of 2020 due to criticism from viewers.
During Pouncey's Zoom interview with the media on Thursday, he was asked about how the offensive line can be more physical and he brought up McFarland's comments
"I got a good laugh at it with ol’ Booger when he put that up. You guys saw I put a joke back," Pouncey said. "Who cares? ... Just move on. Hopefully we get a couple wins coming up and everyone can shut up."
Unlike Alejandro Villanueva, who has a flip phone and doesn't listen to any of the outside noise. Pouncey is well aware of what the talking heads and fans are saying about the team after losing three straight games.
“It’s on everybody,” Pouncey said. “There ain’t pointing no fingers. We won 11 games and there was no pointing no fingers at that point, so we aren’t going to do it now. We’ll figure things out so you guys can write something good for once.”
Pouncey thinks it's the little things right now that's really holding the team back from excelling for a full 60 minutes.
“I just think it’s small details throughout the game,” he said. “The other team has been getting up on us and we haven’t been able to come back. I know we should be playing a lot better.”
The Steelers not only have to get out of the gates quicker on offense, but they need more ebb and flow. The Steelers are 5 of 26 on third down in their last two games.
"I think we are really focused in on this week and I think in the game of football people get it confused, it's all the flow of the game,” Pouncey said. You have to convert third downs. You have to be able to do everything. You can't be one dimensional. Me being here a long time I realize that."
The Steelers have won 11 games this season and have already clinched a playoff berth, so it's not like they're completely incapable of getting out of the three-game slide they're on. Pouncey says they'll figure everything out and get back on track.
“I wish some of the stories when we were winning 11 games that things could have been fixed then, but no one was writing those stories," he said. "I get it, you got to write stories when people are down and out right now, but we will get things together. Trust me.”