Back to basics: The Bills' G Kraig Urbik vs. the Steelers' DE Cam Heyward

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Unlike the Steelers, the Buffalo Bills don't have any problems running the football.

While the Steelers have gone 16 games without a 100-yard rusher -- third-longest drought in the National Football League after New Orleans (22) and Jacksonville (21) -- the Bills had their second 100-yard rusher of the season in last week's 23-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

C.J. Spiller had 116 yards on just 12 carries against the Chiefs as the Bills rushed for a season-high 241 yards against the league's only unbeaten team. Spiller had their other 100-yard rushing game in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers (103 yards on 16 carries).

He is part of a two-headed running attack, along with Fred Jackson, that averages 145.8 yards rushing per game and ranks seventh in the league. That should present a problem today for the Steelers, who have suddenly become allergic to stopping the run.

"The first key to this defense is stopping the run," said defensive end Cam Heyward. "You can look at any game, when we don't stop the run, that's when we get beat. We got to get back to our roots and got to get back to what made us successful."

Indeed, the Steelers have allowed more than 100 yards rushing in each of their six defeats this season, including a season-high 197 yards in each of their past two losses in Oakland and New England. They allowed an average per rush of 5.4 yards in those two games.

When they haven't allowed a team to rush for over 100 yards, the Steelers posted their only two victories of the season against the New York Jets (83 yards) and Baltimore Ravens (82).

That's why they have dropped to No. 31 in the league against the run, an embarrassing position for a team that finished second in the NFL in rush defense last season and No. 1 in 2010.

"We've got to make sure we get back to our fundamentals," defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "We've gotten away from those too far and that's on me. We're leaving too many windows and we're getting hit in some of those windows. We're going to close them up."

Spiller and Jackson are a nice complement to each other. Spiller is the speedy home-run hitter who averages 4.7 yards per carry and had runs of 29 and 61 yards against the Chiefs. Jackson runs more inside the tackles and averages 4.3 yards with six touchdowns.

Curiously, they are getting help from three former Steelers. Kraig Urbik, a third-round choice in 2009, has been a permanent fixture at right guard since the Steelers cut him in 2010; Doug Legursky, a backup and part-time starter for four seasons, starts at left guard; and former 2009 fifth-round choice Frank "The Tank" Summers is the starting fullback.

"We got to stop the run early because they run the ball," said Heyward, who will line against Urbik in some instances. "And that makes them two-dimensional and opens up their passing game."


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.

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