Steelers display revived run game vs. Eagles
It wasn't necessarily Ground Chuck revisited, but the Steelers dusted off the power run game and spotlighted the fullback against Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Despite a patchwork, inexperienced offensive line, the Steelers found great success against the Eagles' defensive line of Jason Babin, Anthony Hargrove and Cullen Jenkins — all highly touted offseason acquisitions.
Jonathan Dwyer rushed for 44 yards, Rashard Mendenhall 30 and Isaac Redman 26 as the Steelers powered their way to 403 total yards — 144 on the ground — in their 24-14 win over the Eagles last night at Heinz Field.
"That's Steelers football," Redman said. "We want to run the ball, be physical. Every running back that went in there ran hard."
The run game helped the Steelers hold on to the ball for nearly 40 minutes, including all but seven minutes in the first half, as they took a 21-0 lead.
"Any time you can run the ball and run the ball effectively as an offensive line, you love that," said lineman Tony Hills, who played right guard and left tackle.
The Steelers employed a fullback at times — something that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has shied away from over the past couple of years. Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, David Johnson and Jamie McCoy all lined up at the position.
Not usually a proponent of the fullback — let alone handing him the ball — Arians ran a number of plays out of power formations and gave the ball to the fullback a handful of times — one of which resulted in a key Dwyer 6-yard run and a first down late in the first quarter.
"They came to me and asked me to play some fullback, and I said sure," said Dwyer, who played fullback his three years at Georgia Tech. "I felt comfortable doing it."
After leading, 7-0, on a first-quarter touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown, the Steelers went to the ground on their next drive, with great success.
"I think we started to get into a rhythm, and we overcame some penalties we had," receiver Hines Ward said. "We all need to be on the same page and execute."
Seven of their first eight plays in a 14-play, 96-yard touchdown drive were runs. The Steelers ran nine times on the drive for 49 yards behind an offensive line that never played a game together until last night.
"All running backs get in a rhythm will multiple carries," Redman said. "The offensive line did a great job coming off the ball."
The first-team line was reshuffled because of an injury to starting left tackle Jonathan Scott, who left after one play with a knee injury.
In fact, the Steelers used four offensive line combinations in the first half, with the first team on the field.
Not one position remained the same throughout the first half, but the running backs still found some gaping holes. The Steelers know there is a lot of room for improvement.
"None of us are jumping for joy," tackle Willie Colon said. "When we step on the field, we expect to be the most physical team."