It isn’t normal to see the Pittsburgh Steelers finish dead last in the league in rushing. They haven’t always lead the league, but to finish at the bottom of the league is certainly an outlier compared to the norm.
Everyone associated with the Steelers, including their global fan base, knows this statistic needs to improve. Not only did they finish last in rushing, but they also finished in yards per carry.
The reasons for the lack of a running game are plentiful, but finding solutions to those issues is anything but easy. Throughout the first wave of free agency, the Steelers haven’t done much to improve their running game on paper. In fact, some might argue it has gotten worse after the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey. James Conner is expected to leave via free agency, and the line will also likely be without Alejandro Villanueva.
How did they improve the running game? They brought back Zach Banner, who is a more physical tackle than Villanueva, promoted Matt Canada, who is known for his creative ways of running the ball, and also promoted Adrian Klemm from assistant offensive line coach to head offensive line coach. That’s about it.
During a call with Steelers Nation Unite, Team President Art Rooney II was asked about the running game, and how the team can improve in 2021. His response was simple, but pointed directly to the 2021 NFL Draft for help.
This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:
Rooney II on the run game: "We’ve got to be a lot better in running. We don't want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers last in the league in rushing ever again. … we’ll be looking for ways to improve in the draft. It’s something we’ve gotta fix. We’re working on it."— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) March 25, 2021
With Rooney pointing at the draft to improve the ground game, you have to think he is talking about two areas of the offense:
There is a large segment of the fan base who doesn’t want to see the Steelers take a running back in the first round. It doesn’t matter if it is Travis Etienne of Clemson, Najee Harris of Alabama or even Javonte Williams of North Carolina. Their thought is to improve the offensive line before thinking about the running back.
The opposite of that thought process is thinking about getting a premiere running back, and hoping players like Kevin Dotson and Banner can elevate the running game at the same time.
Whichever side of the fence you might find yourself standing, it is obvious the draft will be focused on the offensive side of the ball. Who gets selected at pick No. 24? Only time will tell, but in the meantime make sure you are staying glued to BTSC as they prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.