Updated: May 1, 2021
(Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
It's no secret that the Steelers' run game was horrendous last year -- it's been talked about all offseason and how the Steelers need to get a top-tier running back and rebuild the offensive line through the draft. With finishing the season dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4) and yards per carry (3.6) in 2020, the Steelers have nowhere to go but up in regards to the running game in 2021.
Randy Fichtner and Shaun Sarrett are gone and they've been replaced by Matt Canada as offensive coordinator and Adrian Klemm as the offensive line coach.
Klemm is a blue-collar, no-nonsense type of coach and knows what it takes to build a winning culture. Klemm was a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams when he was with the Patriots from 2000-2004. He was also coached by Dante Scarnecchia in New England, who's considered as one of the best offensive line coaches in the history of the game.
In a recent interview that appeared on Steelers.com, Klemm said he's looking forward to a fresh start with the offensive line and he's looking to bring physicality back.
"We struggled a little bit last year, obviously we didn't do as well as we liked to the last few years, but one of the things we want to really focus on is just being physical," Klemm said. "You know, bringing a physical aspect to the game back. Playing with passion, communicating, getting guys in the right spot. Not doing too much, but doing enough to keep the defense off-balance."
The offensive line is also going through a transition right now with Maurkice Pouncey retiring this offseason, Matt Feiler signing with the Chargers in free agency, and Villanueva likely heading to Baltimore. Minus David DeCastro, who is heading into his 10th season with the Steelers, the rest of the offensive line is made up of young players -- Kevin Dotson, Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner. The Steelers might also draft a center in the early rounds to replace Pouncey.
"It's a new group and it's a fresh start. The offense is going to change in some ways. And it's an opportunity for us to put a fingerprint on it," Klemm said.
"The players are a reflection of us. In terms of coaches in each room. You know, Chris Morgan, the other offensive line coach, we have the same mindset. We want to build a culture that's based on physical play. And that's what this organization has been based on, whether it's offense or defense.
"I remember being a player, you knew going into the week (when) it was Monday or Tuesday, that it's going to be a hell of a week of practice," Klemm said. "We're wearing pads all week and all that because we're getting down on Sunday. And I want to get back to that for our group, that when we put on the film we're not talking about how physical we're going to be. No one's asking us questions of if we can run the ball and all that. Like our film will speak for itself. I'd like to get to that point sooner than later. And I think we can with the type of guys that we have here now and hopefully the guys that we'll bring to it. But more than anything the culture that we have here. Getting back to the roots of that. And just putting the emphasis on that in terms of physical play and finish, and just a nasty disposition every single play."
If a situation comes up where Alabama running back Najee Harris is off the board when the Steelers pick at 24th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, it wouldn't be surprising if they selected Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins. If Jenkins ends up in Pittsburgh, he should be a favorite of Klemm, as Jenkins is a dominating run blocker and reportedly plays with a mean streak. That's the exact type of mentality that Klemm wants to bring back to the Steelers.