The Pittsburgh Steelers rushing offense is on a four year run that is almost too bad to believe. This team is currently ranked 31st in rushing so far in 2021. Pittsburgh has faired no better in recent years finishing 32nd last year, 29th in 2019, and 31st in 2018. They have changed running backs, coordinators, lineman, and none have had any positive effects on the run game. How did it get so bad for the Steelers? Let’s take a look at the major factors:
The Pittsburgh Steelers are infamous for not prioritizing the offensive line through the draft. They have not selected an offensive lineman in the first two rounds of the draft since 2012. That is almost ten years without restocking a vital part of any football team. With that kind of commitment to the line, it can be no surprise the struggles this run game finds itself in. Age and injuries finally caught up with this team, and the results speak for themselves. Will the Steelers offensive line be their undoing in 2021?
Drafting running backs has been a sore spot for this team as well. While other teams around the league find gems in the later rounds, the Steelers have missed on several backs over the last five years. Players like Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, and Jaylen Samuels have all failed to fill the role adequately. In fairness, Kevin Colbert did find a back in James Conner. The problem was Conner could never stay healthy in his time in Pittsburgh. Now the team was forced into using a first round pick on a running back. Even with Najee Harris, this group continues to struggle.
The Steelers offensive coordinators over this time frame have been less than stellar to put it nicely. Randy Fichtner was hired to placate Ben Roehtlisberger. He had no business being a coordinator in the NFL. The jury is still out on Matt Canada, but the early results are not good. Even after being given the best running back in the draft, this teams still sits next to last in rushing yards this season. Granted the offensive line is bad in Pittsburgh, but good coaches find ways to overcome deficiencies. Canada hasn’t been able to come close to doing that thus far.
The one that got away:
Neither the Steelers, nor Le’Veon Bell ever truly recovered from their ugly separation. It’s been four years since Bell was the team’s primary back, and the Steelers running game has never been the same. One can’t help but wonder how much better the Steelers rushing offense would be had the two sides been able to work out a deal. Clearly, things could not have gone worse for either side since then.
The number one problem hindering the Steelers run game is the offensive line. There’s no getting around the lack of resources this team has put into this area of the team. There are certainly other factors contributing to the struggles in the run game. Not even a prime Le’Veon Bell would find much success with the current state of this unit. Until this changes, expect more of the same for the Steelers running game going forward.