Steelers' running game is looking for some consistency
Isaac Redman can't figure out why anyone is panicking about the Steelers' running game.
After all, the ground game amassed 134 yards against AFC North rival Baltimore. It could be considered a success, considering the injuries and inconsistencies that have plagued the Steelers' top three running backs: Redman, Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer.
Many believe the team abandoned the run too early in last week's loss to the Ravens.
How well the Steelers run Sunday in Cleveland could determine the outcome, as they try to take the pressure off quarterback Charlie Batch, who starts for the injured Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich broke two ribs last week while replacing Ben Roethlisberger, who dislocated ribs and injured his shoulder two weeks ago in a victory over Kansas City.
Dwyer and Mendenhall split duty against the Ravens. They carried 12 and 11 times, respectively, for a combined 88 yards. But Redman left the game with a concussion after his only rushing attempt netted 5 yards.
“A lot of people panicked,” said Redman, who on Friday passed his pregame concussion tests. “They panicked before Dwyer ran for 122 yards (vs. Cincinnati) and before I ran for 147 (vs. Giants). They're panicking now, but we will respond this week.
“We have the means to get the job done. If we didn't believe, then maybe we would panic. We honestly believe in our offensive line and our offensive coordinator (Todd Haley).”
The Steelers are averaging 106.8 rushing yards per game, 17th in the NFL. They face a Browns defense that is 24th against the run (125.3 yards).
Cleveland was better against the run last weekend against Dallas with the return of defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who missed the first eight games with a pectoral injury.
“They have a good defensive line, and their linebackers run to the ball well,” Redman said. “There aren't too many weaknesses we can exploit. If we don't shy away from the run and get away from our game plan, we feel like we can run the ball.”
The injuries and setbacks have been part of the running game's problems since Mendenhall injured his knee in the final game of the 2011 regular season in Cleveland on New Year's Day.
“We can't think that the world is coming to an end,” said Dwyer, who had two 100-yard games during a recent four-game win streak. “Everybody has their slumps.
“Maybe everyone is expecting us to run for 100 yards every game. We had some minor things like penalties that could be easily fixed.”
The Steelers didn't have a problem running against the Browns last season, racking up 147 and 161 yards in sweeping Cleveland.
Guard Willie Colon insisted the Steelers will not abandon the run, especially with the uncertainty surrounding their passing game.
“There's nothing teams are doing to us for us to not run the ball efficiently,” said Colon, who did not practice but expects to play Sunday. “A lot of it is our lack of execution. The big thing is being consistent.
“I've been discouraged about us not being consistent in short-yardage situations. The running game is there, and it has to be the staple of our offense. We have to be patient with it because in the first quarter everyone is ready to fight, but in the third and fourth quarter we want to make things happen in the run game.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.