Think back to before the Raiders game in Week 3...
Remember Coach Tomlin's press conference where he talked about how unhappy he was with the performance of the running game through the first two games? And how effusive he was in praising the Raiders running backs - presumably sending a clear message to Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, and the rest of our backs?
Ed Bouchette wrote that:
[Tomlin] declined to single out individuals, although it appears at times the backs are not hitting holes that are there for them.
Apparently the bye week wasn't enough to fix that, because Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson was caught on camera giving his wards a bit of a dress-'em-down-then-build-'em-back-up pep talk on the sideline during the Eagles game:
"Do what I'm asking you to do - it works. For 15 years, it's been working. Do what I'm coaching you to do. Alright? Don't make up anything - I'm begging you! Just do the right things, guys.We're better than this football team - we'll grind these guys up, and turn them into little bitty Eagle meatballs. But you got to do what I'm coaching you to do."
(I really do love those Sunday Soundtracks segments. Previous favorite clip had been Arian Foster's "I don't know you, bro", but "we'll grind these guys up, and turn them into little bitty Eagle meatballs" is just so vivid and poetic.)
Anyways, Wilson's words are not enough on their own to completely settle the debate about who's more to blame for the running game woes - blocking, ball carriers, or both? - but now we DO know that Wilson clearly feels there's been a disconnect between what he's been coaching his backs to do, and what they've been doing on the field instead.
It's got to do with their youth, right?
Our stable is very young: Will Johnson and Chris Rainey are rookies, Baron Batch is playing in his first NFL season, Redman and Dwyer are in their 3rd seasons, and Rashard Mendenhall's grand return marked the start of his 5th campaign.
We don't have any real "elder statesman" that needs both hands to tally up all of his years in the league. If we did have a guy like that, perhaps he could clearly articulate to the youngsters why he's been able to ink another contract or two beyond his entry deal and stick around for as long as he has - sometimes it's easier to heed advice when it's repeated by someone who is more your peer. If we had that kind of veteran (like Mewelde Moore the past few years), perhaps this whole "not doing what coach says to do" would be less of a problem.
But we can't dwell too long on what we don't have. Not when there's two great things we know we do have:
1). Our bell-cow ball carrier back on the field - healthy, hungry, and in a contract year (best believe that Mendy's motivated for money right now)
2). Our RB coach back on the sideline - healthy, energetic, and passionately getting into players' ears (no sure thing considering what Kirby Wilson went through earlier this year)
And I'm sure this will be addressed too: