Getting Back to Their Roots

John Kuntz-

Getting Back to Their Roots


Getting Back to Their Roots



Over the past decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers could be defined as an air-it-out type of team. Through the “Killer B” era, the goal of the offense was to average 30 points a game through a season. While the Steelers were never able to accomplish this, they still put up fireworks, as Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown proved to be one of the greatest quarterback/wide receiver duos of all time. However, when looking at Steelers history, this is an outlier. 

Since the beginning of the franchise in 1933, the Steelers have always been a pound the rock and play good defense type of team. In all the Super Bowls the franchise has won, Pittsburgh has followed this format. It has been a successful one as well, as since 1972 the Steelers have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL. 

Now the ‘Killer B” era is gone, and Roethlisberger is in the twilight of his career. He simply cannot carry a team anymore and win games when throwing it more than 40 times. So what do the Steelers do? Well, they go back to their roots. A rookie running back in Najee Harris, and a young revamped offensive line has helped bring back smash mouth football back to the Steel City. 

After a very slow start to the season, the Steelers have begun to stick to the run and try to grind teams down. In fact, of the four games Pittsburgh played in October, all four of them rank as their best rushing games by yards per attempt, and in three of them, the Steelers cracked 30 total rushing attempts. Unsurprisingly, the Steelers three game win streak lines up perfectly with when they decided to commit to the run. In their last three games, all wins, the Steelers ran the football 35, 30, and 32 times respectively. In their three game losing streak from September to the first game in October, Pittsburgh only ran the ball 14, 15, and 16 times in each game. 

The correlation between running the football and winning is as clear as day for Pittsburgh. In the last three games, Pittsburgh has rushed for over 100 yards in each time, which has helped them control the time of possession which more often than not, leads to victories. And while the yards per carry numbers aren’t great, they only average 3.7 yards per carry, the eye test tells you that it is improving. Looking at the Browns game for example, while the Steelers only averaged 3.6 yards per carry, if you take away the last drive which had four runs against a stacked box that went for four total yards, the Steelers averaged 3.9 yards per carry in Cleveland. Cleveland has a great rush defense, only allowing an average 3.5 yards per carry and an average 84.75 rushing yards per game. Pittsburgh outperformed the league average against Cleveland on Sunday, and bullied the Browns vaunted front seven. 

Looking on the other side of the ball, the Steelers still have a very good defense. While not making as many splash plays this year as the last two seasons, the Steelers still shut teams down. They currently rank seventh in points allowed per game, only allowing opponents 20.3 points per game. Just like the Steelers’ rushing attack, the Pittsburgh defense has improved as the season has gone on. Since their loss to the Packers on Oct. 3, Pittsburgh has not allowed more than 20 points, with their standout performance coming last weekend against the Browns where they only allowed 10 points. 

Pittsburgh has always been known for a strong run game and a smothering defense, but over the past decade the Steelers went away from that style of play. Now, in 2021, the nasty is being brought back to Pittsburgh. Get ready for smash mouth football to be played at Heinz Field for the next decade. 


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