Updated: Nov 21, 2020
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
The Steelers have rushed for 48 yards or fewer in their last three games, which is the first time since Chuck Noll's first year as the Steelers' head coach in 1969 that they've failed to rush for at least 50 yards in three consecutive games. Pittsburgh had a season-low 44 yards rushing against the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday. The rest of the NFL is 3-14-1 when rushing for fewer than 50 yards this season. The Steelers, of course, won all three games that they rushed under 50 yards, but it's still a concerning issue.
“The biggest critique is our ineffective running game,” Tomlin said Tuesday during his weekly press conference. “We spent a lot of time talking and thinking about that in an effort to move forward. One of the things I’ll acknowledge is you always go through lulls in a season when components of your play are lacking. It requires a re-center of energy or attention. I believe that’s where we are in regards to the run game. We’ll get about that task this week.”
The Steelers remain the only unbeaten team in the league at 9-0, but they are far from being a complete team.
“The only thing that is perfect about our team is our record,” Tomlin said. “There will always be things to work on. I look forward to getting in the lab and tackling this run game situation. It’s something we shouldn’t have a difficult time pushing through to be quite honest. We have very capable people in that area, but it is below the line as we sit here today. Thankfully, it wasn’t significant enough to cost us a game at this juncture, but we are proceeding with that level of urgency.”
The Steelers currently rank 24th in the league in rushing yards per game (101.8) and they are 27th in the NFL in yards per carry (3.8). The Steelers had a running back rush for 100 yards or more in four of their first five games. (One from Benny Snell Jr. in Week 1 and three from Conner.) Conner has rushed for 105 yards on 37 carries (2.8 average) in the last three games. His last 100-yard game came in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns. Of Conner's five rushing touchdowns, four of them came in the first five games of the season.
Tomlin was asked what's the problem with the run game at his press conference and said it's a myriad of things.
"It's usually a combination of all the above," he said. "Specifically last week (against the Bengals) I was not surprised of the commitment Cincinnati had to packing the line of scrimmage. We stepped into a stadium where we hadn't seen our quarterback all week. So it was reasonable to expect them to have an agenda to push us toward that in an effort to check his readiness, our collective cohesion in that area. But sometimes we're just not doing good enough as well, and so it's a combination of all the things you suggest. We'll roll up our sleeves and get about the business of attacking it this week."
Tomlin still has full confidence in James Conner as his No. 1 running back. He was asked if he was reconsidering the division of labor at that position and whether he still views Conner as the "bell cow."
"I do not. He is. We're going to get better," Tomlin simply stated.
Tomlin and the Steelers know they need to get better in the run game. It's something that they're not oblivious to.
"We're not up to snuff right now, we accept ownership for that," Tomlin said. "We're going to roll our sleeves up and solve it. We had a similar discussion a couple of weeks ago when you guys were asking about our third-and-long defense. We did similar things there, and I expect similar results with respect to the run game."