(Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
It has been well documented just how awful the Steelers' rushing attack was in 2020, as they ranked dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4) and yards per carry (3.6). To put it in perspective, 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 need to rebuild their offensive line and get a bell-cow running back through the draft -- either Najee Harris of Alabama, Travis Etienne of Clemson or Javonte Williams of North Carolina would instantly jumpstart their rushing attack. Matt Canada is also the new offensive coordinator replacing Randy Fichtner, so Canada's implementation of more pre-snap motions, shifts and jet sweeps should also help improve the run game.
The predictable play-calling with Fichtner was certainly an issue, but the Steelers just did not have the right personnel last year to have a solid running game. The offensive line looked old and tired and the running backs were just mediocre. James Conner is an OK running back, but he's just not an elite player. And Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Samuels and Anthony McFarland Jr. are just complementary running backs.
The start of free agency is coming up on March 17 and speculation is growing on who goes where. On Thursday, Marc Sessler of NFL.com wrote an article mapping out a free agent in 2021 who would be a fit for each AFC team. For the Steelers, Sessler has Seahawks running back Chris Carson as a match for Pittsburgh.
Below is a summary of why Sessler can see Carson in the black and gold.
"Pittsburgh's ground game fell to pieces behind PFF's second-worst run-blocking unit in 2020. With left tackle Alejandro Villanueva a free agent and veteran center Maurkice Pouncey out the door, in-the-red Pittsburgh is in a pinch. The Steelers could use a runner with a proven track record of creating his own opportunities. Carson is a punishing pile of bricks who generates missed tackles and yards after contact. He'd bring a dose of toughness to a run attack that looked Pop Warner-esque in 2020."
Carson was productive in his four years with the Seahawks, rushing for 3,270 yards on 715 carries (4.6 average) and 21 touchdowns, along with 101 receptions for 775 yards and seven touchdowns. He might command too much money that the Steelers are willing to pay, however, and I believe the Steelers want to address the running back position in the first two rounds of the draft.