There were so many takeaways from the Steelers’ loss to Baltimore a week ago that one thing that we could almost be forgiven for forgetting that Le’Veon Bell rushed 22 times for over 120 yards and a score. Part of the reason we overlooked this was because we were probably too busy wondering ‘what-if?’ he’d have gotten the ball more late in the game.
As the Steelers head to San Diego this week, running the football should be foremost in their minds.
The Chargers currently rank 29th in the NFL against the run where they are giving up an average of almost 130 yards per contest. Their overall defensive rank is 16th which is aided by their 11th ranked pass defense which covers well, but they’ve only sacked opposing quarterbacks five times in four games.
The Steelers are currently averaging 111 yards on the ground and in two of those games Le’Veon Bell was not in uniform. DeAngelo Williams did exactly what the team needed him to do in Bell’s absence but now he’s been relegated to just a handful plays per game.
Regardless of whether it’s Bell or Williams, the Steelers need to take advantage of a San Diego defense that just doesn’t stop the run well at all. Doing this would accomplish several things for the team. First, it takes the ball out of the hands of Michael Vick who makes his second straight start in place of Ben Roethlisberger.
While Vick didn’t turn the ball over, he wasn’t much of a passing threat either and running the ball can make that job easier by opening up the play-action. Don’t be a bit surprised if you see some early play-action with deep throws to Martavis Bryant who returns to the lineup.
The second thing a good running attack does this week is limit the amount of time the defense is on the field. Philip Rivers currently leads the NFL in passing yards and he’s proven he can beat this defense in the past. Keeping him on the sidelines goes a long way towards a Steelers’ victory. But it also helps keep this defense fresh.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest this defense wore down last week especially on the defensive line where depth is sorely lacking. My biggest concern with the Steelers’ attempting to run the ball is whether Todd Haley will stick with it if it’s working. The temptation to pass has proven to be too much in the past for Haley to resist.
Ride Bell and Williams to a much-needed victory on Monday night.