The Pittsburgh Steelers have not been the same since Le'Veon Bell left the team in 2017. James Conner is a talented running back, but he could not stay healthy during his time with the Steelers. In fact, in all 4 seasons from 2017-2020, James Conner has not played a full season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. So for 3 seasons the Pittsburgh Steelers running game has completely fallen off the face of the earth. In 2020 the Steelers finished dead last which is very rare to see coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers organization.
They need to start getting back to their physical running game. Like the days when Jerome Bettis played football for the Steelers. That is when their offense played the best. It takes the pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger to throw the ball 50 times a game and the Steelers looked like they were one-dimensional in 2020. Even Jerome Bettis said he was sick when he watched the Steelers fail to run the ball into the endzone on the one-yard line 5 times against the Washington Football team. That was when it was apparent the Steelers were really struggling to run the football in 2020 and it didn't get any better going forward.
Jerome Bettis on fixing the Steelers running game: “The only solution in fixing the running game is the commitment,” he said. “You got to be committed to it because once you commit to it then the offensive linemen, they have a different attitude about it, the running backs look at it differently, just the whole offense changes. You can’t just fix the running game with Xs and Os. It doesn’t happen that way.”
More Jerome Bettis on fixing the Steelers running game: “All they need is the commitment to pound the football because in practice everything changes, and when you come out in the game, it changes,” Bettis said. “You can’t ask Ben to throw 51 times every game. As great as he is, if you ask Ben to throw 50 times, Ben will win 8 out of 10 of those games. The problem is, chances are one of those two games he loses is a playoff game that you can’t afford to lose.”
Bettis was right one of those games the Steelers ended up losing was against the Browns in the first round of the playoffs. It was one of the most embarrassing losses in Steelers History alongside their Jacksonville and Broncos loss. The Steelers need to fix their offensive line and draft a premier running back in the 2021 NFL draft.
I feel they have no choice but to draft Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, or Travis Etienne. They cannot afford to draft a third-round running back again as they did with James Conner. It's time to start getting their running game back to the way the Steelers know how to run the football (physically).
The 2021 NFL draft will give them an opportunity to fix it going into 2021. They cannot go wrong with Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, or Travis Etienne. Anyone of those 3 running backs can come into Pittsburgh and run the ball at an elite level. One we haven't seen since Le'Veon Bell and Jerome Bettis.