(Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Dalvin Cook easily ripped through the Steelers defense on Thursday night, as he rushed for 205 yards on 27 carries (7.6 average) and two touchdowns. By the second quarter, Cook was averaging 11.8 yards before contact, according to ESPN Stats and Info. That's how bad it was. I mean, just look at the holes Cook was running through. It was a complete domination.
The run defense has been a major issue all season. They're really missing Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu. Devin Bush and Joe Schobert have also been incredibly disappointing. It might just be the worst inside linebacker duo in the NFL. In their last six games, the Steelers have allowed a whopping 1,071 yards rushing, which is an average of 178.5 yards per game. The Steelers currently rank 30th in the league in run defense. It's certainly the worst run defense by a Steelers team that I've ever seen. Casey Hampton and James Farrior have to be shaking their head in disgust.
The Steelers have allowed a running back to gain over 100 yards by halftime twice in the last three weeks. Joe Mixon on Nov. 28 and Cook on Thursday night. It was revealed during the FOX broadcast that in the first 234 regular season games of Mike Tomlin's tenure with the Steelers, the team never had allowed a running back to gain 100 yards in a half of one game.
According to Ryan Scarpino, who is a former member of the Steelers PR staff, the Steelers have given up at least 100 rushing yards in six straight games. This hasn't happened since the 1999-2000 seasons when they allowed at least 100 rushing yards in eight straight games. The record is 10 (1974-1975). Scarpino also notes the most rushing yards allowed by the Steelers in a 16-game season is 2,008, which was set in 1989. Through 13 games this season the Steelers have allowed 1,813.
The run defense has been horrendous, but the offensive line and running game hasn't been much better. Like Tomlin said after the Vikings game, football is made out to be complex, but it really comes down to blocking and tackling. Both sides of the line of scrimmage have been getting dominated lately.
The Steelers really struggled with Mike Zimmer's double A gap blitz scheme. There were way too many free shots on Ben Roethlisberger. The offensive line ended up surrendering five sacks, while the Steelers didn't register a single sack on Kirk Cousins.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, with four games left, I don't see their flaws on either side of the line of scrimmage improving. They just don't have the talent.