While the rest of the offense seemed to hit a stall in Baltimore last week, DeAngelo Williams appeared to be in full gear with his offensive line. He gained 100 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns on the ground. He would add over 50 yards in his receptions, but Williams' big day came from his work on the ground and a solid job in the trenches by the offensive line.
We take a look at the good and the bad that came from those plays.
In the opening drive of the game, Williams set a tone that the Steelers were not afraid to run the ball despite their aerial attack. On this play the Steelers get a key block from their Pro Bowl guard, David DeCastro, who seals off his man to the inside to open up a great lane for Williams. Roosevelt Nix, whose season came to an unfortunate end due to injury last week, makes a key block at the second level to make Williams' run a bit easier as well. Also notice how Marcus Gilbert engages the outside linebacker and keeps him out of the play. After that, it's just Williams putting on the moves to shake Baltimore defenders.
One of the knocks on Williams earlier this season was that he was less effective of a running back when he was in singleback formations. His better plays came from having the benefit of a fullback as a lead blocker during the game. As the season progressed, he has showed that he is no longer reliant on that as a factor in his play. Williams has good patience and can read the keys from his offensive line well, but has a major advantage thanks to Pittsburgh's other weapons.
Part of the complaints we had against the Steelers after the game was that they seemed to line up in formations that announced what the play would be against Baltimore. If it was a heavy formation, it was a run play. If it was a pass play, there were no running backs available to keep the defense guessing. This play shows what can happen when you mix both into the equation. Pittsburgh lines up in the pistol formation and runs a fake reverse to Martavis Bryant. Bryant's speed has torched many a defense this season and draws the attention of the Ravens defense just enough to leave Williams space to gain a first down on this play. The Steelers are good at running the ball this year, but they are better when their opponents have been worried about the other threats on the field.
The most talked about play since this game has been the fourth down stop on the opening drive. It was fourth and short and Pittsburgh had been pounding the ball down the field at this point so it seemed reasonable to rely on the same idea to get the job done. The only problem that came was that the Ravens looked ready and Ramon Foster tripped over Ben Roethlisberger's foot, blowing up the entire run scheme and making for an easy stop by the Ravens.
Ultimately the Steelers' ground game had a solid performance last Sunday, but it was not enough to get the job done. It was somewhat reminiscent of the old school Steelers days when the ground game was in its peak but the passing game kept the offense from putting up the points to win the game.
While we hope the latter is not a concern moving forward, it certainly would be nice to see the running game have the kind of success we saw last week.