Rejuvenated Steelers ground game will be the key down the stretch

Nov 26, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) stiff arms
Nov 26, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) stiff arms / Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Like the city of Rome, assembling a football team isn’t built in a day. That’s especially true for a club that has had questions surrounding its offensive coordinators for any numbers. Add in a second-year quarterback that isn’t exactly lighting things up this season and there are plenty of doubts when it comes to the sluggish offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Following the team’s 13-10 loss at Cleveland in Week 11, offensive coordinator Matt Canada was let go. Eddie Faulkner was promoted to take the spot and Mike Sullivan took over as play-caller. Last week, Mike Tomlin’s team came away with a 16-10 victory at Cincinnati. The team reached the end zone once and settled for three field goals. There were signs of encouragement as the club rolled up 421 total yards, the first time it hit that mark in a regular-season game since Week 2 of 2020.

In last week’s victory over the Bengals, the Steelers ran for 153 yards, most of that by Najee Harris. He and Jaylen Warren are proving to be quite the 1-2 punch. Led by this talented duo, Tomlin’s team has rushed for 696 yards in its last four outings (174.0 average). That’s quite a turnaround for a club that ran for only 558 yards in its first seven outings (79.7 yards per game).

To give credit where it’s due, Canada was still the team’s offensive coordinator in the previous three games vs. the Titans (166), Packers (205), and Browns (172). The emergence of rookie tackle Broderick Jones has been a huge factor as well.

Next up, the 7-4 Steelers have two games, both at home, in a 12-day stretch. They host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and the New England Patriots on Thursday night. The former has allowed the third-most rushing yards per game in the league this season, while Bill Belichick’s club has been pretty stingy against the run.

Scoring 16 points is hardly reason for excitement. However, there was a lot more continuity last week vs. the Bengals. It was a victory and there were steps in the right directions. Still, they were baby steps. The Steelers’ offense needs to grow up quickly with just six games to play.