Concerning the performance of the team's starting running back in the Steelers most recent game, coach Mike Tomlin said this:
"I thought he did a great job of picking vision and putting the ball where it was supposed to be and running with the type of demeanor that we desire."
Running with "demeanor?"
What is Tomlin talking about?
As far as "putting the ball where it was supposed to be," since Tomlin was not talking about the end zone, again, what was he talking about?
The Steelers running game stinks and no attempt by Tomlin to make it look better than it is will fool anyone. It certainly won't fool the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers opponent Sunday at Heinz Field. Of more significance, it's not going to fool Le'Veon Bell, the running back in question. It's much too early to call Bell a disappointment. It's not too early to call his play thus far disappointing.
Bell is 72nd in the NFL in rushing -- 91 yards on 32 carries -- but it's not fair to use that statistic to determine his performance since he has played in only two of the Steelers five games. A fairer assessment would be his yards per carry. Where he ranks 151st.
What is Tomlin seeing that others do not? Or is he just trying to prop up his struggling rookie with some false words of praise?
Bell carried 16 times for 57 yards against Minnesota and 16 times for 34 yards against the New York Jets. And it's not like he making the best of a bad situation. According to Pro Football Focus, which grades and analyzes the play of every NFL player, Bell broke one tackle against the Jets.
As a result of the play of Bell and Felix Jones, 24 carries, 92 yards, the Steelers, the team of Franco Harris, Barry Foster and Jerome Bettis, are 31st in rushing this season, ahead of only -- by one-half yard -- the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are 10 teams that have more than doubled the Steelers rushing total.
The failure of the running game might not be the primary reason Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 18 times, but it is a factor. With no running game to fear, opposing defenders can more freely go after the quarterback.
Roethlisberger is going to be the focal point of the offense and that's even more so because of the outstanding play of wide receiver Antonio Brown. But he can't be expected to do it all. Few quarterbacks can thrive without an above-average running game. Roethlisberger needs some help, needs someone to keep the defensive linemen honest.
The leading candidate to do that is Bell, a second-round draft choice of much promise. No doubt, his day will come. But it would be nice if it came sooner rather than later.
First Published October 18, 2013 8:12 PM