Rousing return of Steelers' power run game
The ball was spotted at the 4-yard line, but by the time Mike Adams was done with Buffalo's Nigel Bradham, the 323-pound tackle turned part-time tight end was planted on top of the Bills' outside linebacker in the end zone with Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell not far away with a touchdown.
It was only one play during the Steelers' 23-10 win Sunday over Buffalo at Heinz Field, but it was a microcosm of how the Steelers attacked the Bills' front seven. And that was with power football time and again — something that hasn't been done here in almost a year.
“That right there wears down the defense,” said Guy Whimper, who filled in at right tackle for Marcus Gilbert for a series before playing the second half at left guard for the injured Ramon Foster. “You keep running it right at them and go man-to-man.”
For one game, the run-and-we-don't-care-if-you-know mentality was back for the Steelers.
Despite playing largely with a journeyman (Whimper), a replacement center (Fernando Velasco), a young left tackle (Kelvin Beachum) and a right tackle (Gilbert) and right guard (David DeCastro) with sore ankles, the Steelers rushed for 136 yards on 33 carries.
But how they accomplished it was much more revealing.
“That's what you want to do. You want to run the ball in that fashion,” DeCastro said. “When you control games, you win games.”
The Steelers held a sizeable advantage in time of possession (35:16 to 24:44) that would have been greater if not for Buffalo's five-minute touchdown drive to end the game.
“We saw the line getting some good push, so why change it?” said running back Jonathan Dwyer, who rushed for 38 yards on six carries. “We ran it because that's the way the offensive line was playing.”
This from a team that was 31st in the league in rushing and found its most explosive run plays were quarterback scrambles, end-arounds or handoffs out of the shotgun formation.
“We said coming into this game that we were going to run early and run it a lot,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
What he left out is how they were going to run.
Adams, who lost his job at left tackle earlier this season, was employed as a third tackle for 20 of the Steelers' 33 run plays. The power football with the extra offensive lineman resulted in 72 yards.
“Every back wants to run behind big guys, regardless of how many,” Bell said. “We put our big guys in and just ran.”
It was reminiscent of a three-game stretch last season (against Cincinnati, Washington and the New York Giants) when the Steelers had their most success running the ball.
“Instead of only doing it three games, hopefully we will do it every week,” Dwyer said. “If we get the run game going and establish that, we can be a dangerous offense.”