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The Highs and Lows of the Steelers’ 2019 season: Rushing

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It’s time to take a look at some of the Steelers’ statistics from this past season, both good and bad.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Now that the Steelers 2019 season has concluded, the long off-season has begun. As we move through the remainder of the NFL postseason and beyond, it’s time to look back at some of the numbers the Steelers put up (or failed to put up) this past season. There are some numbers that are great, while others are definitely short of the mark. Either way, let’s put some context behind a few of the statistics for 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers produced during the season.

We have already looked at some high notes such as takeaways and sacks, as well as the low of points scored. This time, it’s a category with mostly lows with a few high points from the 2019 season.

Rushing

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers had some interesting situations which caused some all-time lows when it came to rushing statics. Before diving into the specific highs and lows, let’s look at the overall rundown of the Steelers 2019 rushing stats and their NFL ranks. The Steelers rushed for 1,449 yards (29th) on 395 attempts(T-20th) this past season which came to an average of 3.66 yards per carry (30th) to go along with seven rushing touchdowns (T-29th).

Since 1947, the Steelers have only had one season in which they rushed the ball fewer times than the 2018 season. Unfortunately, it was the strike shortened season of 1982 in which teams only played nine games. Otherwise, the Steelers 345 rushes from last season was a franchise low. In 2019, the Steelers did rush the ball 50 more times, but unfortunately only gained an extra 2 yards.

The rock bottom of the statistics for the Steelers comes with their seven touchdowns which was the lowest in franchise history from a 16-game season. The Steelers also had seven rushing touchdowns in 1982 in there nine games played. To look for a season in which the Steelers reached the end zone on fewer rushes would have to go all the way back to 1957 when the Steelers only had six touchdowns in 12 games.

Another low point from the rushing statistics was the fact the Steelers did not have a 500 yard rusher on this season for the first time since 1967. James Conner led the Steelers with 464 rushing yards on 116 attempts during the 10 games in which he played. Rookie Benny Snell Jr was close behind with 426 yards on 108 carries in 13 games. It should be noted that Snell only had six total rushing attempts through the Steelers first five games. After seeing the ball for 17 carries against the Los Angeles Chargers just before the Steelers bye week, Snell only had five carries in Week 8 against the Dolphins before missing the next three games due to injury. So 80 of Snell’s 108 rushing attempts came in the final six games of the 2019 season with 71 of them being in four of the games.

Although mainly due to injury, it was the first time the Steelers did not have a 500-yard rusher in a 16-game season. Even though both Conner and Snell missed time, it was the overall production in the rushing attack which kept them below the 500-yard mark. To put things in perspective, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has rushed for 588 yards over a three game stretch from Week 17 through the divisional round of the playoffs. Over the same stretch, Henry has had 96 rushing attempts, just 20 shy of how many James Conner had for the entire season.

During the 2019 season, the Steelers went 8–1 when reaching 25 rushing attempts in a game. Their only loss was in Week 16 to the New York Jets when the Steelers rushed 25 times for 75 yards. Conversely, the Steelers were 0–7 when they failed to reach 25 attempts in a game. Although it seems to be a telling statistic, reaching the number of rushes for the Steelers generally was because they were winning the game as to why they ran the ball so much, not necessarily the other way around.

When it comes to rushing yards per game, the Steelers ability to rack up rushing yards paints a much better picture. The Steelers were one of two teams in 2019 that were undefeated when they rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. The Steelers were 5-0 when reaching the century mark with the only other undefeated team being the Kansas City Chiefs who were 7-0. Unfortunately, the Steelers were tied for 28th in the NFL with only five 100-yards rushing games. And as for individual performance, only James Conner‘s 145 rushing yards against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 of the 2019 season marked the only time the Steelers had a single player rush for more than 100 yards in a game.

While the Steelers did not appear to have a consistent featured back for the 2019 season, the overall rushing statistics were not terrible when looking at all running backs combined. Even Kerrith Whyte Jr had 122 rushing yards on 24 attempts for a 5.1 average per game with the limited time he saw with the Steelers. With several options to give them more running back by committee attack in the 2020 season if the Steelers choose to do so, the return of Ben Roethlisberger could be the most important thing for the Steelers rushing attack next season. If the Steelers aren’t constantly seeing a stacked box to keep them from running the ball and forcing them to throw, hopefully whoever is taking handoffs in 2020 can find more success than this past season.