Steelers' Run Game
(Peter Diane/Post Gazette)

James Conner is by no means a bad running back. He may not be a top ten back in the league, but he is by no means bad. Then why is it that over the last three games the Steelers’ only averaged 46 rushing yards per game? Many are quick to put the blame on former pro-bowler and Steelers’ “Bell Cow” James Conner, but he is not the problem. The problem isn’t Benny Snell or Anthony McFarland either. The problem with the Steelers’ run game is their offensive line and offensive play calling.

The Offensive line

There is no doubt that this offensive line is talented. Ben Roethlisberger has only been sacked 10 times this season. However, that may not be a testament to the line, but to Big Ben. Ben leads the NFL in time to throw with only 2.31 seconds.

The flaws in this aging offensive line are exposed in the run game with James Conner. On several plays, in the last few weeks, Conner has been unable to run due to the lack of holes at the line of scrimmage. Even with the addition of Derek Watt on the field, holes are rarely created for Conner to run through.

The Play Calling

Early in the season, Pittsburgh amazed people with their use of jet sweeps and trick run plays with Ray-Ray McCloud and Chase Claypool. However, they do not work if you keep using them. To supplement them the offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has called plenty of outside runs behind tight ends.

This would work with the right running back, but Conner is not that running back. He is a downhill, in the gaps, power runner. So is Benny Snell. The only back suitable for those types of runs is rookie Anthony McFarland. Fichtner is not playing to his players’ strengths. In fact, he is playing to their weaknesses.

So far, the Pittsburgh Steelers have made by on their impressive passing game. However, eventually, they will have to run the ball. If the Steelers do not improve their offensive line and realize that they are using their personal all wrong the run game will fail. So, they better fix it before they really need to rely on it in the playoffs.