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  • Pittsburgh Steelers: Finger Should Point at Running Game Rather Than Defense by David Daniels

Troy Polamalu and James Harrison will be back.


While the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense isn't living up to its prestigious reputation, the return of two former Defensive Players of the Year in Polamalu and Harrison are sure to resurrect its supremacy. You can't be as optimistic about a ground-game turnaround, though.

Through three weeks, Pittsburgh's offense has only rushed for 195 yards. That's the third-worst total in the NFL.

Sure, like the defense, the Steelers rushing attack is without key personnel in Rashard Mendenhall. But there's without a doubt a larger drop off from Polamalu and Harrison to Ryan Mundy and Chris Carter than there is from Mendenhall to Isaac Redman. After all, Redman actually averaged more yards per carry than Mendenhall each of the past three seasons.

Of course, according to Mendenhall, there isn't even a problem with Pittsburgh's ground game. Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Mendenhall said this week:

"I don't think (the running game) is too much different than it's been. It might be perceived that we're struggling, and it's not the case. It's a different offense, we've got some different guys, and we're trying to figure out how to put it together."

It's not the case, huh? So 2.64 yards per carry is not "too much different than it's been"? That's why, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Steelers are off to their worst start rushing the football in the last 62 years.

Mendenhall's return will help. David DeCastro's return, whenever that is, will help. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that something is detrimentally wrong with Pittsburgh's running game.

When Todd Haley has had his hands on a pass-first offense-which he didn't on the Kansas City Chiefs and has on the Steelers-his Plan B, to run the football, has never been an explosive one.

In 2007 on the Arizona Cardinals, Edgerrin James failed to rush for an average of 4.0 yards per game in Haley's system. He couldn't do it the next year either. And he split time with a halfback in Tim Hightower who finished the 2008 campaign with an average of 2.8 yards a pop.

One would think a ground game, while lacking yards in quantity, should be able to gain quality yards in complement to Haley's top-notch air attack. Ben Roethlisberger recording an average passer rating of 109.2, in theory, should back safeties off and open up running lanes. That has yet to happen, though-this season or any other in which Haley was pass-happy.

Other than injuries, who knows what's stopping Pittsburgh's rushing attack from being the threat it's been in the past? One thing is for certain, though, 2.64 yards per carry won't bring Lombardi Trophy No. 7 to the Steel City.

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