Pittsburgh’s ground attack broke out in a big way last weekend when the team totaled 141 rushing yards against the Baltimore Ravens.
Thanks to the stellar efforts of Le’Veon Bell and a surprisingly nasty offensive line, the Steelers found some momentum in the running game as they consistently won battles in the trenches that evening to the tune of 4.9 yards per carry.
While their performance was nice, Pittsburgh’s offense must prove that their success on the ground was no fluke when they head to Oakland to take on the Raiders this Sunday.
Although Oakland ranks tied for ninth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (99.0), they have been quite the inconsistent unit this fall. In games versus Jacksonville (34 yards) and San Diego (36 yards), the Raiders’ defense has smothered the run and dominated at the point of attack.
The Raiders’ defense limited Maurice Jones-Drew to 27 yards on 10 carries during the team’s first win of the season, and Ryan Matthews, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown did just as poorly (36 combined yards) for the Chargers three weeks later.
Those two performances however are sandwiched around some extremely shoddy and ineffective ones.
Indianapolis, when their running game was headed by Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw, rushed for a total of 127 yards on 26 carries (4.88 ypc) during their opening day win versus Oakland. The Raiders’ run defense was gashed against the Broncos two weeks after that when Ronnie Hillman (66 yards), Knowshon Moreno (39 yards), and Montee Ball (61 yards) all found room to run as well.
Alfred Morris (71 yards) and Roy Helu (41 yards) also performed well the following week, while Jamaal Charles (78 yards and two touchdowns) and Alex Smith (29 yards) made Oakland pay at Arrowhead Stadium.
With the Raiders’ inability to stop the run consistently in mind, it will be up to Pittsburgh’s offensive line to carry over their performance from last weekend into the game on Sunday in Oakland. The play from Kelvin Beachum and Guy Whimper was solid on the edges, Fernando Velasco, David DeCastro, and Ramon Foster put in a tremendous collective effort on the inside.
Bell, Felix Jones, and even Jonathan Dwyer on his first down carry all had success toting the rock against Baltimore, and that trend will need to continue if the Steelers’ offense wishes to find more balance down the stretch.
The stage is set for Pittsburgh’s running backs and offensive line to enjoy another breakout performance against Oakland, and it will be up to them to take advantage of the Raiders’ inconsistent front-seven during Sunday’s crucial contest.
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