If you’re reading this on Facebook, you’re likely only reacting to the headline before posting snarky remarks and/or those annoying laughing/crying emojis.
But if you clicked on this piece, I thank you, and I can assure you that my headline means something.
What does it mean? It means that the Steelers’ 2020 rushing totals mean nothing with regard to how they’ll run the football in 2021. Actually, that’s basically the headline.
Anyway, the Steelers finished dead-last in rushing in 2020 in both total yards and yards per attempt. They only scored 12 touchdowns on the ground, which makes total sense when you factor in their overall ineffectiveness in that area.
When you see those numbers and remember your frustration over Pittsburgh’s 2020 ground attack, I guess it stands to reason why you’d want to mock any optimism one might have about how it will improve in 2021.
Am I optimistic about the prospects of the Steelers running game improving this coming regular season? Yes, but that’s mainly due to the first-round selection of the top running back in the 2021 NFL Draft. Other than that, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to things because I just don’t know.
Neither do you.
Everything that made the ground game inept in 2020 is just about gone in 2021.
The guy in charge of designing game plans the past few seasons—Randy Fichtner—has been replaced by Matt Canada. Will he succeed at making the ground game better? I know he’s going to try. Beyond that, I have no clue.
Neither does anyone else.
What about the offensive line? After all, anytime someone suggests that Najee Harris, the aforementioned top running back in the 2021 NFL Draft, will make the ground game better, someone inevitably asks, “Behind THAT line?”
No, because THAT line is no longer around. Alejandro Villanueva is now a Raven. Matt Feiler is now with the Chargers. Maurkice Pouncey is retired and probably spending a lot of quality time on his yacht. As for David DeCastro, the version of him that was injured and ineffective in 2020 is presumably gone in 2021. Chukwuma Okorafor is gone from the right tackle spot.
If we’re talking about THAT other line, the one that will presumably include Okorafor at left tackle, Kevin Dotson at left guard, Kendrick Green/B.J. Finney/J.C. Hassenauer at center, All-Pro David DeCastro at right guard and a healthy Zach Banner at right tackle, I can’t really say how Harris will run behind it.
Neither can anyone else.
It’s a big old mystery. It’s easy to be skeptical and negative when there are unknowns about an area of the Steelers’ team.
But it takes just as much energy to be positive as it does to be a Negative Nelly.
Again, though, I’m not necessarily saying that we should all be Positive Patties regarding the Steelers 2021 ground game. I’m just saying we should be Shrugging Shirleys.
All we know for sure is that Pittsburgh is intent on correcting its abysmal performance in that area a season ago. Everyone from Art Rooney II to Kevin Colbert to Mike Tomlin is aware that the ground game must get better. Again, they replaced the guy calling the plays. They parted ways with the guy coaching the offensive line and replaced him with someone in Adrian Klemm who seems more aggressive in his approach—including with his vernacular.
Don’t most ground-game proponents say that running the football is a mindset? Not only that but it takes practice and persistence?
Will this all pay off in the end? Will quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been saying all the right things thus far in what may be his final offseason as a player, ultimately buy into the notion that a Steelers team that runs is a Steelers team that wins? I can’t say for sure.
Neither can anyone else.
The only thing I am certain of is that the Steelers 2020 rushing performance will have nothing to do with their 2021 rushing performance.
Just like the headline says.