|Steelers run game finally picking up ground|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 03 December 2008 13:10|
Immediately above them: Seattle and Buffalo. Immediately below them: Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Diego and St. Louis.
It's a low-rent neighborhood for a team that has been built around the running game and defense since the 1970s, and was home to two of the top 11 rushers in NFL history in No. 5 Jerome Bettis and No. 11 Franco Harris.
More recently, Willie Parker has rushed for 4,770 yards in three-plus seasons and already ranks behind only Harris and Bettis in the franchise's career rushing yardage.
Then there's this: Since the Steelers' founding in 1933, their 135,154 yards rushing are the second most in the NFL to the Chicago Bears' 145,780. Now that's history.
,488 in 2003, when the pass-heavy offense was all Tommy Maddox all the time.
``You know, we still can't run it,'' Tomlin said with more than a pinch of sarcasm after the Steelers ran for 161 yards while beating New England 33-10 on Sunday. ``We're working. That's what you guys (reporters) will write, anyway.''
There's a reason for that. Since former coach Bill Cowher's first season in 1992, the Steelers haven't had fewer than 1,852 yards rushing except for that anomaly in 2003. They gained 2,168 yards only last season.
Unless they pick up their pace substantially in their final four games, the Steelers will finish with their second-fewest yards rushing in a full season since former coach Chuck Noll's first year in 1970. Even while going 1-13 that season, they ran for 1,715 yards.
Without the running game to which they are accustomed, the Steelers are only 24th in total offense at 308.2 yards per game despite their 9-3 record.
Still, center Justin Hartwig said there was more continuity in the running game in New England than there has been in weeks. In three of their previous five games, the Steelers were held well below 100 yards.
``We were able to run the ball, and that's huge,'' Hartwig said Wednesday. ``I think (offensive coordinator) Bruce Arians dialed up some more run plays and we were able to get some big gains on those run plays.''
health. He missed five of six games because of knee and shoulder injuries and, possibly because of that sore knee, he split time Sunday with Mewelde Moore.
Parker believes he gets into a groove once he starts getting the ball regularly, but he was limited to 16 carries against New England (for 87 yards) while Moore got 12 (for 67 yards).
``It's nice to see those two complement each other like that,'' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. ``We're not there yet, but we're starting to come around and it's the right time.''
No doubt Roethlisberger wants to see balance return to an offense that has been overly reliant upon the pass. Roethlisberger has 13 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in 12 games after having 32 TD passes and 11 interceptions a season ago.
Nine of those touchdown passes in 2007 came in the final quarter of the season; the Steelers begin the final quarter of their schedule against Dallas (8-4) on Sunday.
``Obviously, we would like as many run plays as we can get called because we take pride in running the ball,'' Hartwig said. ``The last few weeks we have been able to run it a little more, so hopefully we will continue that plan.''