Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

More Offensive Balance Also Plays Role in 4-Game Surge

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

More Offensive Balance Also Plays Role in 4-Game Surge

Article excerpt

The loss to Dallas Nov. 13 did more than drop the Steelers under .500 and put them dangerously close to falling out of playoff contention. It also served as a moment of truth for the Steelers offense.

Yes, the offense reached its stated goal of scoring 30 points in the game. Yes, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 408 yards and three touchdowns and put the Steelers ahead with 42 seconds remaining on a fake spike, 15-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.

But no, it was not a script the Steelers wanted to follow any longer.

For the first nine games of the season the Steelers threw the ball twice as much as they ran it. They averaged 40 pass attempts and 20 rush attempts per game.

Against the Cowboys, the Steelers attempted 46 passes. It was the fifth time in the first nine games they had attempted at least 44.

Since that 35-30 loss, it has been a near 50-50 run-pass balance, and the Steelers have won four consecutive games to regain first place in the AFC North Division.

"We've simplified it," right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "We're just going out there and playing Steelers football, playing smashmouth football. December is all about running the ball well and playing good defense. We've been doing that."

During their four-game winning streak, the Steelers are averaging 32 rushes and 31 pass attempts per game. Against Buffalo, the Steelers ran the ball a season-high 42 times, and running back Le'Veon Bell set a franchise record when he ran for 236 yards.

The Steelers ran the ball 28 times against the Cleveland Browns, 29 times against the Indianapolis Colts and 30 times against the New York Giants.

Contrast that to the attempts during their four-game losing streak that preceded the winning streak - 16 rush attempts against the Miami Dolphins, 22 against the New England Patriots, 18 against the Baltimore Ravens and 19 against the Cowboys.

"We're keeping them honest," right guard David DeCastro said. "They have to respect the run so they can't just sit back and pin their ears back on the pass.

"We've done a good job of getting back to basics, and it's really worked out for us. …

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