How to Build a Great Running Game: It is Not Rocket Science

Well I just read a post on how the Steelers could use a better running back to improve their ground game. In that post their was a comment that pointed out the draft status of the Steelers Offensive Line in 2005 when the Steelers rank 2nd in yards per game and to the projected starters for 2012. I thought this was interesting. I decided to put together this post to look at the top rushing offenses from last season and their Offensive Lines drafts status in an attempt to find a correlation. i will also look at their RB draft status as well.

2011 Season Leading Rushing Offenses-

Denver Bronco's- 164.5 YPG

LT- Ryan Clady, 12th overall pick in 2008

LG- Zane Beatles, 45th overall pick in 2010

C- J.D. Walton, 80th overall pick in 2010

RG- Russ Houchstein, 151st pick by Tampa Bay in 2001

RT- Orlando Franklin, 46th overall pick in 2011

Average Draft Status- 67th pick

RBs- Willis McGahee, 23rd overall pick by the Bills in 2003- 249 ATTs 4.8 YPC 1,199 yards

Houston Texans- 153.0 YPG

LT- Duane Brown, 26th overall in 2008

LG- Wade Smith, 78th overall pick in 2003 by Miami

C- Chris Meyers, 200th overall pick in 2005 by Broncos

RG- Mike Bristel, UDFA in 2006

RT- Eric Winston, 66th overall pick

Average Draft Status- 121st pick (UDFA assigned a value of 234 one greater than last pick in draft)

RB- Arian Foster, UDFA in 2009, 278 ATT, 4.4 YPC, 1,224 yards.

Carolina Panthers- 150.5 YPG

LT- Jordan Gross, 8th overall pick in 2003

LG- Travelle Wharton 94th overall pick in 2004

C- Ryan Kalil, 59th overall pick in 2007

RG- Geoff Hangartner, 169th overall pick

RT- Jeff Otah 19th overall pick in 2008

Average Draft Status- 70th pick

RB- DeAngelo Williams 27th pick in 2006, 155 ATT, 5.4 YPC, 836 yards

Minnesota Vikings- 144.9YPG

LT- Charlie Johnson, 199th overall in 2006 by Colts

LG- Joe Berger, 207th overall in 2005 by Dolphins

C- John Sullivan, 187th overall pick

RG- Anthony Herrera, UDFA in 2004

RT Phil Loadholt, 54th overall pick

Average Draft Status- 177th pick

Now lets look at the Steelers from 2005

2005 Steelers- 154.0 YPG

LT- Marvell Smith- 38th overall pick

LG- Alan Faneca- 26th overall pick

C- Jeff Hartings- 23rd overall pick

RG- Kendall Simmons 30th overall

RT- Max Starks- 75th overall

Average Draft Status- 39th overall

RB- Willie Parker, UDFA in 2004- 255 ATT, 4.7 YPC, 1202 yards

2011 Steelers- 118.9 YPG

LT- Max Starks- 75th overall

LG- Doug Legursky- UDFA

C- Maurkice Pouncey- 18th overall pick

RG- Ramon Foster- UDFA

RT- Marcus Gilbert- 63rd overall

Average Draft Status-125th pick

RB- Rashard Mendenhall 23rd overall pick- 228 ATT, 4.1 YPC, 920 yards

Estimated 2012 Season Starters

LT- Marcus Gilbert 63rd overall pick

LG- 24th, 56th or 88th overall pick

C- Maurkice Pouncey- 18th overall pick


RT- Willie Colon, 131st overall

Average Draft Status- 94th (if first round pick is a guard), 101st pick (if second round) 107th (if third round)

So what does this mean? Well of these top teams only one averaged lower than a top third round pick on their line. That team has an all world running back. This in a way shows that the Steelers don't need to focus a first round pick on their line but at least a top three pick. While a top running back helps, top offensive line can make even the worst RB look better. No team on this list had more than one UDFA starting for their line, the Steelers have had two. Furthermore a team can both be a top rushing offense and a top passing offense. The New Orleans Saints were 6th in rushing offense and 1st in passing offense. The Saints also gave up the second least sacks.They have a franchise QB and put a lot of money on their O-line. Not as much in their "skill" positions. In Rashard Mendenhall's best season he has 324 carries for 1273 yards and only a 3.9 YPC. In 2005 Willie Parker had 69 fewer attempts for only 71 fewer yards and .8 YPC better. Why? The O-line was far better.

So the big picture of this post. Improve the O-line, improve the offense. If you have a franchise QB with time you can still be a dominant offense with just good skill position. You do not need to run the ball the most but you need to be able to close out games with the running game. In the last 3 Super Bowls the team with the better postseason YPA won the game. (Just as an obscure fact)

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