Ben Roethlisberger: Steelers QB Needs Struggling Running Game to Improve

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2012

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 9:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 hands the ball off to Running back Jonathan Dwyer #27 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on September 9, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 31-19.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a more balanced offense to win their final two games of the season and help their chances of earning a playoff berth.

Star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has now lost his first two games after returning from rib and shoulder injuries, and you cannot expect him to carry the Pittsburgh offense by himself.

The Steelers running game ranks 26th in the NFL, and only managed to rack up 69 yards in Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Only 52 of those 69 yards were earned by running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman.

Take a look at the Steelers' production in the running game over the last five games.

Week Opponent Rush Yards W/L
11 Baltimore Ravens 134 L
12 Cleveland Browns 49 L
13 Baltimore Ravens 96 W
14 San Diego Chargers 69 L
15 Dallas Cowboys 69 L

The Steelers are at their best when they run the football, control the clock and wear down defenses. Having success in the running game also helps Roethlisberger use the play-action pass to create big plays down the field to star receiver Mike Wallace.

Pittsburgh cannot depend on Roethlisberger to defeat quality teams in the passing game when defenses don't fear the team's struggling run game.

The final two games of the season for the Steelers will be difficult to win. Their Week 16 opponent is the Cincinnati Bengals, whose defense was phenomenal in a Thursday night victory against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

The Bengals are ninth against the run, and have allowed just 34 rush yards per game over the last two weeks (vs. Dallas Cowboys and Eagles). This will be a tough matchup for the Steelers offensive line. They have to win at the line of scrimmage or the Bengals will prevent the Pittsburgh rushing attack from being effective.

In Week 17, the Steelers will play the Cleveland Browns, who have won three of their last four games. This won't be an easy matchup against a division rival that knows Pittsburgh well.

For Roethlisberger to lead the Steelers back to the NFL playoffs, he needs the running game to provide the offense with balance. If they do not run the football well against the Bengals, it's hard to imagine Pittsburgh winning that game.

The Steelers can still make the playoffs if they win their final two games, but for this to happen, the rushing attack has to improve and give the offense more balance.