clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Steelers have become a one dimensional team, and that does not equate to success

The Pittsburgh Steelers have become pass-happy, and that isn’t a good thing.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have plummeted down to Earth with a three-game losing streak that puts their 2019 Super Bowl chances, let alone playoff chances, in serious jeopardy. Fans have blamed the three-game losing streak on everything under the sun (Have some blamed the sun?) One stunning aspect of the Steelers is how little the team has run the ball in 2018.

The Steelers have run the ball 32.79 percent of the time so far this season. Let that sink in a bit and think about what it tells you.

Now to bring that into even more of a stark contrast, Pittsburgh has run the ball 26.4 percent of the time during the three-game skid. Again, dead last in the league during that stretch. At the end of 2017, Pittsburgh was 22nd for rushing plays called at 40.3 percent.

The NFL is a passing league you say? Is it a passing league for successful teams in 2018? Let’s look into that further. Below are the bottom 10 teams in terms of rushing play percentages along with their records.

32 Pittsburgh: 32.79% 7-5-1

31 Minnesota: 33.01% 6-6-1

30 Atlanta: 33.25% 4-9

29 Green Bay 34.06% 5-7-1

28 Cincinnati: 35.75 5-8

27 New York Giants: 35.86 5-8

26 Indianapolis: 36.52 7-6

25 Tampa Bay: 36.94 5-8

24 Philadelphia 37.5% 6-7

23 Oakland 32.28% 3-10

The 10 teams are a combined 53-74-3 that is an overall win percentage of 41%. Besides the Steelers, only the Indianapolis Colts have a winning percentage over.500.

10 San Francisco: 43.22% 3-10

9 New England: 43.41% 9-4

8 Dallas: 44.27% 8-5

7 Baltimore: 44.72% 7-6

6 Chicago: 44.95% 9-4

5 Buffalo: 46.06% 4-9

4 Houston: 47.30% 9-4

3 New Orleans: 47.41% 11-2

2 Tennessee: 47.47% 7-6

1 Seattle: 52.29% 8-5

The top 10 run-heavy teams in the league are a combined 75-65, which is good for 58% win percentage. Five of the eight current division leaders make the list. (Only the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are in the middle for division leaders.) But those teams all have good records and were salting away the wins by burning the clock, right? Absolutely most of those division leaders were burning the clock by churning out first downs with leads late in their games. The Steelers have led or been tied in all three of their losses during their winning streak into the fourth quarter.

Denver Broncos Loss

Pittsburgh was behind by one touchdown or less for the entire first half and did not trail again in the game until the 9:17 mark in the fourth quarter. Even with a close game, Pittsburgh ran the ball 16 of 76 total plays (21%). Four of the Steelers 23 first downs came from running the ball.

Los Angeles Chargers Loss

Pittsburgh was tied or led the entire game except for four minutes in the fourth quarter. In a game the Steelers led by 16 points, the team only rushed the ball 17 of 63 plays (27%). Three of the 23 first downs Pittsburgh had were via the run.

Oakland Raiders Loss

The Steelers never trailed the Raiders by over 7 points the entire game which accounted for the final 10 minutes of the first quarter and nearly three minutes of the second quarter. Besides that span, the black and gold were either leading or never behind by three points. But again, Pittsburgh preferred to pass the ball over running amassing 19 rushes of the 58 plays (33%). Even though the Steelers surpassed their 2018 average of their run-pass ratio, the team accounted for three rushing first down of the 24 total.


In the past three weeks, the Steelers have rushed for 185 yards on 52 totes for a 2.8 yards per carry average. Which came first, the lack of a dominant running game, a lack of running plays or vice versa? Fans can blame the losing streak on anything they like, but having such an imbalance is leading the Steelers down the wrong path to success. Unless the Steelers can find a running attack, the team will not find the success other division leaders now enjoy. It is hard to see Pittsburgh being one-dimensional and beating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick on Sunday.

*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and ESPN.