Through two games of the 2019 regular season, the Pittsburgh Steelers have neglected the running game. In Week 1 vs. the New England Patriots, the team was playing from behind early, hence the measly 13 carries for Steelers ball carriers, one was Ben Roethlisberger. In Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks the Steelers registered just 16 carries, one of which was Mason Rudolph scrambling for a first down.
That’s right. Two games, averaging 14.5 carries a game.
With Mason Rudolph taking over for injured Ben Roethlisberger, this statistic just won’t cut it. The Steelers will need to have a more controlled approach to their game plan, in hopes of executing time consuming drives, converting on third downs, keeping the 49ers’ offense on the sidelines and ending with points.
But there is more to this than just the overall number of carries. Statistics show the Steelers should be feeding James Conner early and often moving forward, something they haven’t done yet in 2019. While statistics can be manipulated to fit certain narratives, this statistic is as black-and-white as they get.
Check out these numbers:
James Conner, since the beginning of the '18 season:— Chris Mack (@THEChrisMack) September 19, 2019
5 games of @ least 19 carries:
5.1 yds/rush, Steelers 4-0-1
10 games of <19 carries/game:
3.6 yds/carry, Steelers 4-6
If James Conner is healthy, you feed the man this Sunday. pic.twitter.com/hwxTBR9PXm
Pittsburgh has won when not giving Conner a huge chunk of the offensive plays, but it becomes very clear when the Steelers actually make Conner a priority, the team wins.
The Steelers haven’t had a lot of success running the football this year, even when they tried, and defenses have been crowding the line of scrimmage daring the offense to try and go deep. They are determined to stop the run, and the intermediate passing routes at the same time, and forcing the Steelers to get aggressive. Outside of the flea flicker vs. the Seahawks to JuJu Smith-Schuster the Steelers have failed at getting defenses to back off and open up some running lanes.
With Pittsburgh going cross country to face the 49ers, and with Rudolph at the helm, will they run the ball not just with more frequency, but effectiveness? If the Steelers want to pull of the upset the statistics show getting James Conner involved will go a long way to making that dream a reality.