Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stopping Run Will Be Key

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stopping Run Will Be Key

Article excerpt

In the first half of the season, the Steelers played four games against teams that predominantly ran the outside zone-blocking scheme. In those games against Cleveland (twice), Houston and Baltimore, the Steelers surrendered 630 yards rushing, or 73 percent of their overall rushing yardage against (862).

Baltimore comes to Heinz Field Sunday for a rematch of the Week 2 contest when the Ravens ran for 157 yards in their 26-6 victory. Bernard Pierce rushed for 96 yards in that game, but since has been benched in favor of Justin Forsett, who played for new Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in Houston in 2012.

"They're a good zone team," Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said. "They have backs that have been in the Gary Kubiak system. It will be important for us to stop the run and force them to pass. When we know it's pass, we can really light our hair on fire and get after the quarterback."

The Steelers have enjoyed more success stopping the run in recent weeks, and Heyward said seeing three teams that ran the zone in the first half of the season was beneficial. Zone-blocking teams ask their offensive linemen to chop down defensive linemen and linebackers with cut blocks on the back side of plays and ask their running backs to make one decisive cut before accelerating up the field.

As the season has progressed, the Steelers have made steady improvement against the zone scheme. Cleveland rushed for 183 yards in Week 1, followed by Baltimore's 157 in Week 2. In the second meeting against Cleveland three weeks ago, the Browns rushed for 158 yards, and Houston ran for 132 yards two weeks ago.

The Texans ran with great success early, gaining 101 of their 132 yards before halftime, before the Steelers began to defend it better.

"We're definitely more prepared for it," Heyward said. "The more you see it the more you become accustomed to it. It's about stopping it. They're going to continue to run it if they have success. When they do run it, we have to make sure we set them back."

Tough sledding

After struggling to score touchdowns in the red zone early this season, the Steelers have converted on 7 of the past 9 trips inside the opponent's 20, including 5 for 6 in their 51-34 victory Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. …

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