Whether it has been the lack of ball-security by the offense, the piss-poor play from the offensive line, the inability of the defense to record sacks or force a single turnover, or the coaching staff’s lackadaisical attitude towards their recent 2-8 slide during regular season play, the 0-3 Pittsburgh Steelers are in deep trouble.
While those issues have garnered the most headlines in recent weeks, the Steelers’ defense has also struggled to successfully stop the run as well.
In fact, through the first three weeks of the regular season, Pittsburgh’s defense has been anything but “dominant” when their opponents have gone to the running game.
Mediocrity Defending the Run
Currently, the Steelers rank tied for 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game with 115.3, tied for 26th in rushing touchdowns allowed with four, and 30th in total rushing attempts faced with 104.
The Steelers’ have struggled to consistently win in the trenches, have not blown many plays up in the backfield, and have certainly had their fair share of issues with tackling through their first three games. So I certainly cannot blame Pittsburgh’s opponents for attacking them on the ground as often as they have this year.
Remember the Titans’ clock-eating drive (6:48 total) at the end of the first half in Week One? I sure do, and I remember the Titans running the ball on 11 of their 12 plays on the drive. Although they gained only 41 yards on the ground on the drive, they won at the point of attack enough to completely destroy the will of Pittsburgh’s guys in the trenches.
The duo of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard behind the Bengals’ offensive line gashed the Steelers in Week Two to the tune of 113 yards on the ground. While they were not able to get “big gainers,” Green-Ellis’ rush of 14 yards was the longest of the game, both backs consistently pushed the pile and set Andy Dalton and the rest of the Bengals’ offense in “2nd and 3rd & manageable” situations all evening.
Like Green-Ellis and Bernard did in Cincinnati, Matt Forte found success on the ground against the Steelers last Sunday. In addition to his one touchdown, Forte gained 87 yards on 16 carries at Heinz Field. Overall, Forte, Michael Bush, and Jay Cutler combined to gain 107 yards for the Bears, and this was the third consecutive game in which Pittsburgh’s defense allowed an opponent to gain over 100 yards on the ground.
Due to the fact that the Steelers have not been as dominant against the run as they have in years past, I am sure that the Minnesota Vikings would love to utilize Adrian Peterson as often as possible in London this Sunday.
As the Vikings most potent offensive weapon, it would behoove Minnesota’s offensive brass to feed the ball to their future “Hall of Famer” whenever they get the chance. Peterson still ranks fifth in the league in rushing yards (281) despite the Vikings’ troubles on offense during their 0-3 start. The stat is made even more impressive when one considers that Christian Ponder does not scare many defenses with the threat of stretching the field vertically.
This 2013 installment of the Steelers’ defense has struggled at times against the run this year, and they will definitely be put to the test this Sunday when Minnesota serves them a heavy dose of Peterson at Wembley Stadium.
Follow me on Twitter: @DominicDiTolla
Follow & Like “NPC” on Facebook: Nice Pick, Cowher