Here we go again? The Steelers had the most improved running game in the league last year, averaging 51 more yards in the second half of the season, and with 3 times as many touchdowns. So with them rushing for 166 and 205 yards in their last two games, I can’t help but wonder if they’re going to do it again.
Running games can take time develop, with blockers and runners getting their timing down. I remember the Seahawks, back when they had Marshawn Lynch, have a few consecutive seasons where the running game came to life in October. And the good New England teams from the past tended to turn up their running games late in the year.
Or maybe this is a case of Mike Tomlin just walking down the hall and telling Matt Canada to start calling more running plays.
Whatever the reason, Pittsburgh last year was a lousy running team in the first half of the season. Then they turned it around, averaging 146 rushing yards in their final nine games, and with 12 TD runs.
It looks like we’re on the same path this season. They were simply dreadful in their first two games, with 31 carries generating 96 yards (didn’t help, of course, opening against the 49ers and Browns). And no rushing touchdown in their first five games.
But the Steelers now are looking like they might put up top-10 rushing numbers going forward. They’ve run for 6 TDs in their last four games. Teams change.
In the chart below, the “points” column assumes 6 points for a rushing touchdown and 1 for every 10 rushing yards. The final column (the “rank”) shows where that production would have ranked against 2022 teams if you were to produce at that level for all 17 games. Games tagged with black dots, the team would have rank last or next-to-last over the course of a season. Those are misfire weeks, and they have tended to come early in the seasons.
The games in bold, they show where the team (if posting those numbers for an entire season) would rank in the top 4 in overall rushing production.
The team is going with a tag-team backfield or Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren (pictured). Those guys are co-starters now, and I think they’ll have plenty of decent games coming up. I can’t say I’d be excited about using either in Cleveland, but I like the way those backs are trending.
|PITTSBURGH RUSHING, 2022 SEASON|
|1||• at Cincinnati||W 23-20||22||75||3.4||0||7.5||32|
|2||• New England||L 14-17||22||91||4.1||0||9.1||32|
|3||at Cleveland||L 17-29||22||104||4.7||2||22.4||3|
|4||N.Y. Jets||L 20-24||31||119||3.8||2||23.9||3|
|5||• at Buffalo||L 3-38||17||54||3.2||0||5.4||32|
|6||• Tampa Bay||W 20-18||29||77||2.7||0||7.7||32|
|7||• at Miami||L 10-16||23||95||4.1||0||9.5||32|
|8||at Philadelphia||L 13-35||24||144||6.0||0||14.4||28|
|9||New Orleans||W 20-10||43||217||5.0||2||33.7||1|
|11||at Indianapolis||W 24-17||36||172||4.8||2||29.2||1|
|12||at Atlanta||W 19-16||37||154||4.2||0||15.4||23|
|13||• Baltimore||L 14-16||20||65||3.3||1||12.5||31|
|14||at Carolina||W 24-16||45||156||3.5||3||33.6||1|
|15||• Las Vegas||W 13-10||27||106||3.9||0||10.6||32|
|16||at Baltimore||W 16-13||41||198||4.8||0||19.8||10|
|PITTSBURGH RUSHING, 2023 SEASON|
|1||• San Francisco||L 7-30||10||41||4.1||0||4.1||32|
|2||• Cleveland||W 26-22||21||55||2.6||0||5.5||32|
|3||• at Las Vegas||W 23-18||31||105||3.4||0||10.5||32|
|4||• at Houston||L 6-30||25||114||4.6||0||11.4||31|
|5||• Baltimore||W 17-10||30||87||2.9||0||8.7||32|
|6||at L.A. Rams||W 24-17||29||86||3.0||3||26.6||1|
|7||• Jacksonville||L 10-20||18||70||3.9||0||7.0||32|
|9||Green Bay||W 23-19||36||205||5.7||2||32.5||1|