Coach Mike Tomlin made it no secret earlier this week that the Steelers running game is not where he expects it to be, with only 54 rushes for 141 yards, a 2.6-yard average per carry, through two games this season.
“We haven’t run the ball as well as we have liked,” said Tomlin. “I’m not interested in assigning blame in that regard. I will take responsibility for it.
“The reality is we’ve got room for growth. We need to tighten up our menu and lean on the things we are doing well. We need to block better and put the ball where it needs to be on a more consistent basis.”
He isn’t the only who would like to see things get in gear this week against the Oakland Raiders, especially playing on the road in a hostile environment.
“On the road the defense is going to feed off the crowd, by running the ball you get the defense tired, you take the emotions out of the game from their standpoint,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer. “The run game opens up an aspect of the passing game, our play action, with the receivers we have and Ben (Roethlisberger). It opens everything up and establishes our tempo as a team and shows what we are about.
While it’s still early in the season, quickly establishing a balance between the running the ball and passing it is a key for the offense, as teams will soon focus in on shutting the passing game down if the run doesn’t get going.
“I think it’s important for our offense to stay two dimensional,” said tackle Max Starks. “You don’t want to become a team that can’t run the ball and has to pass it and you become predicable. Teams then line up and try to blitz you and twist and stunt you to death because they know you are in passing situations more often than not. It’s important to have a balanced run attack so it frees up options for not only drop back passes, but for your play action game, screen plays, and draws.
“It’s very important. It’s something we have to work on and get better at.”
Dwyer thinks the issues with the running game are things that are an easy fix, most of it coming from within.
“It’s nothing huge, just minor details, everybody being on the same page, making no mistakes, no penalties to hurt us,” said Dwyer. “We have a great offensive line. There is no drop off on the depth chart. The only thing that can beat us is ourselves. I think we can play against any team and what they throw at us. It’s about being consistent and not beating up on ourselves.
“We have to do the little things, not jumping offside, eliminate the holds, and be on the same page. We are doing that every day and getting better. By us feeding off each other we can be a very dangerous team in the run game.”
Another thing that could aid the ground game is doing what Tomlin said about sticking with what is working.
“That is what they said we are going to do,” said running back Isaac Redman. “Instead of having a whole bunch of runs we are making the playbook smaller with the runs and run what we are good at.”
The team has been without Rashard Mendenhall the first two weeks of the season, but he began taking contact in practice on Wednesday. His return to the field, whenever it might be, will be valuable and he looks forward to adjusting to his role in Todd Haley’s offense.
“It’s still early and we’re still developing our identity on offense,” said Mendenhall. “We’re just preparing, and whenever I get back, whatever my role is, I’m preparing for that.
“I feel like my style varies as well. I’m just preparing myself for whenever I step out there, whatever I’m called to do and being able to do it.”
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