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Will the return of Mendenhall prove impactful for the Steelers moving forward?
An obvious component in maintaining fourth-quarter leads is a strong rushing attack. It helps burn time off the clock and keeps opposing offenses off the field.
It was mentioned earlier that Pittsburgh’s offense has few issues, if any. A complete lack of a running game, however, directly hurts the effectiveness of the defense.
The Steelers rank 31st in rushing yards per game and in total rushing touchdowns. Sixty yards per game and just one score on the ground are paltry statistics.
It’s difficult to point to the Broncos game as the fault of a deficient Steelers’ rushing attack. The responsibility resided more with the defense and Roethlisberger’s lone interception on the season.
On the other hand, the Haley-led offense abandoned the run during the very moments when it had success against the Raiders.
In the fourth quarter, with 11-plus minutes remaining, Isaac Redman had just rushed for a solid seven yards on 2nd-and-3. Haley then called for a pass that receiver Antonio Brown subsequently fumbled in Oakland territory, costing the Steelers severely.
Continuing with a steady run game would have proven effective against a questionable Raiders’ rushing defense.
On the Steelers’ last offensive drive, one of their receivers nearly cost them again with a fumble. Mike Wallace fortunately recovered deep in Pittsburgh territory.
Redman then converted on an absolutely huge 4th-and-1 with a six-yard run up the middle. Just as the team found success in the run game once again, it reverted back to the pass, which yielded a sack and failed third-down conversion.
Of course, detractors to the ideas presented in this slide will quickly underscore Big Ben’s impressive numbers this season. He ranks second in quarterback rating (109.2), total QBR (80.0) and interceptions thrown, with only one thus far.
It would be downright foolish to disregard Roethlisberger’s early-season accomplishments and adopt a run-intensive offense.
That said, using a fully one-dimensional offense isn’t a wise game plan, even in this pass-first era in the NFL.
For example, Green Bay and New England—two prolific passing offenses—have each secured their two victories with their highest rushing outputs of the season. The Packers totaled 106 yards on 28 carries (compared to 33 passes) against the Bears, and went 25-for-102 in their win over the Saints.
The Patriots, meanwhile, racked up 162 yards and a touchdown on 35 rushes in their win over the Titans. Brady had four fewer passing attempts. Patriots backs then went for a lofty 247 yards and three scores in Week 4 against the Bills. Again, Brady attempted four fewer throws than team rushes.
The point here is that both Rodgers and Brady experienced their greatest success when they operated within a balanced offense. Roethlisberger—gaudy statistics or not—would similarly benefit with a reliable rushing game behind him.
With Rashard Mendenhall returning in Week 5, it’ll be interesting to see if Haley and Roethlisberger construct a plan that utilizes the running back’s services.
Running the ball and stopping the run—not quite what the Steelers do best compared to what they had done in seasons’ past.
Will that change against the Eagles on Sunday?
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