If the Pittsburgh Steelers are to win two games in a row for the first time this season, there will be a lot of pressure on their defensive unit to do something they really haven’t done all season long: effectively stop the run.
That’s something that’s really never been an issue for Steelers defenses in the past, but this unit is different.
This Steelers defense is allowing 4.1 yards per carry through six games and is allowing 92.5 yards per game on the ground. That number isn’t horrible, but could be a heck of a lot worse had Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden not completely abandoned the run on Sunday night.
Pittsburgh held the Bengals to only 80 yards rushing as a team Sunday night, but Benjarvis Green-Ellis had success carving up the Steelers defense in the first half before Gruden went away from him.
Stopping the run is still a concern of this team and they will have their hands full this week against the NFL’s top rushing team in the Washington Redskins.
Washington boasts the league’s second-leading rusher in Alfred Morris (658 yards) and has gained a whopping 1,244 yards on the ground. By comparison, they have rushed for 703 more yards on the season than the Steelers have.
The Redskins not only boast a talented back in Morris, but also give the Steelers something to worry about in mobile quarterback Robert Griffin III. RG3 is not No. 1 among NFL quarterbacks in efficiency, which could make it a long day for the Steelers secondary, but he has rushed for 468 yards on the seasonl, almost matching the Steelers’ team total (541).
The combination of Morris and Griffin have averaged 5.6 yards per carry and as a team, the Redskins have averaged 5.4 yards per rush on the year, the second best mark in the NFL.
That, coupled with the way the Washington offensive line has played to date should be enough to provide a stern test for the Steelers’ front seven.
Washington has averaged 177.7 yards per game on the ground, the top mark in the league. They’ve run for over 200 yards twice as a team and cleared the 180 mark on four different occasions. The worst game they’ve had this season was a 123-yard effort against the Atlanta Falcons.
That makes stopping the run priority No. 1 for Dick LeBeau’s defense.
If they can do so effectively and force the rookie quarterback to beat them through the air, I like the Steelers chances on Sunday.
But if the Redskins approach 150 yards on the ground and subsequently are able to get Griffin III into a comfort zone, then it could be a long day at Heinz Field for the Steelers defense.