Updated: Nov 17, 2020
So, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 9-0 and we should be celebrating this incredible accomplishment, right? Let take a pause on that for a second.
The one thing that holds true in life is that nothing is perfect, even if it seems so by perception. In the last few weeks, teams have exposed a few kinks in the Steelers armor; some which were fixed in this game. Yet if there is major kink that has yet to be fixed, it would be the Steelers ground offense, which was anemic in their win against the Cincinnati Bengals.
To add some context, we should explore the importance of an effective run game using a boxing analogy. Before a boxer can execute any of their heavier punches, they need to establish a jab. The jab establishes distance, timing, and serves as a vital setup for bigger punches to come. More importantly, the jab creates constant pressure, both physically and mentally. If an effective jab is not established, that boxer becomes predictable; thus making them more vulnerable during the course of a match.
In this particular game, the Steelers had to compensate their inability to run the football effectively, by employing quick passes. This type of strategy would generally work on teams like the Bengals, who do not have the personnel to be defensively efficient. Against better competition, the fear is that they will become too predictable, making them more vulnerable to turnovers.
In addition, an effective ground attack is an ideal way of keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger healthy. When the run is not established, Roethlisberger is forced to drop back more than he should. As we saw last week against the Dallas Cowboys, anything can happen at any given time; had Roethlisberger not available this week, there are no assurances they would have won either Mason Rudolph or Joshua Dobbs.
For what it is worth, James Conner has managed to stay healthy this season, which is good news. The bad news is that he had not been able to run the ball effectively on a consistent basis. Whether the issue is with him or the offensive line, the Steelers have to find a way to fix this kink, before it evolves into an ailment that leads to their downfall.