Steelers look to revive running game again

Ray Fittipaldo 7 years ago

The Steelers improved their rushing game in 2014, jumping 11 spots in the NFL rankings. After finishing 27th in the league in rushing in 2013 they finished last season ranked 16th.

The Steelers led the league in rushing for a short time in September and remained a top 10 rushing team well into December before teams began focusing on stopping it. In the final three games of the regular season the Steelers were held to 45 yards on 22 attempts by Atlanta, to 68 yards on 26 attempts against Kansas City and to 29 yards on 18 attempts by Cincinnati.

The Steelers won all three games, but good running teams pride themselves on being able to run on any team in any situation so there remains room for improvement.

With all five offensive linemen returning as well as the top two tight ends there is reason to believe the Steelers can take another step in their development and be a top 10 rushing team over the course of an entire season.

“I hope so,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “We’ve been really working at it. We have some really great running backs. Coach [Mike] Munchak has been doing a great job teaching us the different techniques and homing in on our base run game. We’ve been watching a lot of film so hopefully we can build on it.”

The Steelers must overcome the loss of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell for the first three games of the season. Bell rushed for 1,361 yards in his second NFL season.

DeAngelo Williams was signed in free agency to be his replacement early in the season and teams could take the opposite approach they employed at the end of last season. Instead of concentrating on limiting the running game they could focus on stopping Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game, which finished second in the league in passing offense a year ago.

It will be up to Munchak to make the necessary adjustments, something he has done well since coming on board as offensive line coach before last season.

“He’s done a great job,” Pouncey said. “He really knows how to adjust to his players. He doesn’t coach everyone the same. He gives the guy what he needs. All the guys respect him. If you can’t learn from a guy like that, the way he played, made the Hall of Fame, the techniques he brings, you don’t need to be here.”

Munchak used zone blocking techniques when he was the head coach and offensive line coach at Tennessee, but he has used that scheme sparingly with the Steelers. The Steelers used a man blocking scheme previously and Munchak has adjusted to his personnel and what they do well.

“We’ll probably do the same things,” Pouncey said. “We might add some new plays. He sees we’re capable of doing a lot more. He’s doing a great job of adjusting with us. He likes the things we like, but he also puts in the things he likes. When we have a group like we do, and you can talk to each other and tell each other what we like to do and don’t like to do, it works out a lot better.”