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Steelers News: In the playoffs, Pittsburgh rush defense becomes paramount

The Pittsburgh Steelers have seen their defense get gashed by the run in 2017, which needs to change if they want to reach new heights in the postseason.

Wild Card Round - Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Regardless of who the Pittsburgh Steelers play in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, all three teams are capable of running the football. Whether it is the Kansas City Chiefs with Kareem Hunt, the Tennessee Titans with Derrick Henry or the Jacksonville Jaguars’ three-headed monster of Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.

All three can run the football well, and if you are honest with yourself, the Steelers have struggled in this department at times this season.

When Dick LeBeau was the defensive coordinator in the Steel City, he would always say the same thing over and over again — stop the run, make them one dimensional.

With LeBeau gone, and Keith Butler now the defensive coordinator, the objective hasn’t changed one bit; however, the Green Bay Packers Sunday night game was the perfect example of how a lack of run stopping can change the entire dynamic of the game. The Steelers’ inability to stop the Packers running on 1st and 2nd downs allowed a quarterback like Brett Hundley to take advantage of easy down and distances on third down.

The Steelers have a healthy roster, and time to is now or never.

Time to check on the black-and-gold news from the great content outside the walls of BTSC...

A reporter catching the end of Keith Butler’s interview session Thursday wanted to know if the third-year defensive coordinator had been asked yet about the Steelers run defense.

“No, no,” Butler said, laughing. “Everybody has avoided that, including me.”

Butler has reason to refrain from the topic even if lightheartedly. For all of the Steelers’ positives on defense heading into the postseason — the most sacks in franchise history, a healthy Joe Haden back in the secondary — the run defense isn’t one of them.

The Steelers concluded the regular season by allowing five of their final six opponents to surpass 100 yards rushing, with two players reaching that number. Down the stretch, Baltimore’s Alex Collins had 120 yards rushing, and Houston’s Alfred Blue gained 108.

Just add “Todd’s Tequila Cowboy Tale” to the list.

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley suffered a hip injury thanks to a fall outside Tequila Cowboy on New Year’s Eve. This after Haley’s wife was reportedly involved in a skirmish.

That makes a pair of bar-related incidents surrounding coaches dating to the start of last year’s playoffs. Joey Porter had one after the team beat Miami in the first round.

”The situation, though not of my doing, has been made clear to me by the Steelers that it is a non-issue to the team and the organization,” said Haley, addressing the matter for the first time Thursday.

Clearly, those in the coaching offices aren’t immune to falling into the 2017-18 vortex of salacious Steeler storylines.

If you were wondering what to do with those tickets, your life was made a little easier.

And if you have tickets to both events, even better.

The Penguins’ Jan. 14 game vs. the Rangers at PPG Paints Arena has been moved to 7:30 p.m. from 12:30 p.m., meaning there no longer is a conflict with the Steelers’ AFC divisional round game vs. either Jacksonville, Tennessee or Kansas City at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field.

The Penguins’ game will be aired nationally on NBC Sports Network. The game was originally set to air nationally at 12:30 p.m. on NBC.

The Steelers host the highest remaining seed from the wild-card round in the divisional round at 1:05 p.m. that day.

The Penguins, incidentally, have a scheduled off days both on Jan. 21 – date of the AFC championship – and Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 4.