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Drafting Najee Harris shouldn’t lead Steelers to overemphasize ‘dedication’ to working recreation

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Steelers staff president Artwork Rooney II doesn’t generally work together with the general public as regards to the group’s soccer plans. There often is a postseason speak with reporters, and infrequently he’ll take questions straight from the fan base in an occasion organized by Steelers Nation United. So when he says one thing substantial concerning the state of the Steelers, it tends to achieve consideration.

“We have now to begin with a dedication to the working recreation,” Rooney advised reporters in January. “And that’s one thing that I’m undecided we’ve all the time had.”

“We’ve received to be so much higher in working,” Rooney advised followers two months later. “Definitely we don’t wish to see the Pittsburgh Steelers being final within the league in speeding once more, ever.”

MORE: The place do Steelers slot in SN’s newest NFL Energy Rankings?

These might be two various things, and it’s important the Steelers do not confuse them. A dedication to working the ball needn’t be the identical as a dedication to being good at working the ball. Tremendous Bowl champions tends to know the distinction.

The soccer individuals within the group responded to Rooney’s challenges with a wide range of actions that climaxed with the collection of All-American working again Najee Harris of Alabama with the twenty fourth decide within the 2021 NFL Draft, adopted by three picks designed to supply extra flexibility and depth with the blocking schemes up entrance.

“We have been very excited that he was there for us. Once we went via our eventualities, it was a simple resolution by us to say if Najee Harris is on the market, we’ll decide him,” normal supervisor Kevin Colbert advised reporters. “He’s an thrilling participant. He’s a three-dimensional working again. … It was simple to determine him, fairly truthfully.”

Now the trick is to not be seduced or coerced into an overemphasis on the run.

The Steelers ranked final within the league in speeding within the 2021 season, as Rooney referenced. That statistic particularly refers to whole speeding yards gained. Nevertheless simple it’s to gauge, it may be a misleading measure of a staff’s efficacy in that class.

A staff can fare poorly in whole speeding yards and nonetheless be at the very least acceptable, and probably even distinctive with its working recreation.

A extra correct measure of a staff’s capacity to run the ball can be yards per try. In that class, the Steelers additionally completed final. It’s onerous to be horrible in that division and nonetheless be a totally functioning offense. Their abject distress on common — 3.6 yards per carry — was a half-yard poorer than some other staff that entered the 2020 playoffs with a profitable file.

Up to now decade, solely three different groups completed final in yards per carry and nonetheless completed above the .500 mark, solely two others reached the playoffs and solely the 2011 New York Giants superior as soon as there. They turned Tremendous Bowl champions, however solely after bettering on their regular-season efficiency by 20 %.

The Steelers additionally have been twenty eighth in speeding touchdowns and twenty eighth in makes an attempt. It’s essential to notice, nonetheless, that working the ball so much has not been a prerequisite to postseason success, which is the place Pittsburgh fell brief in 2020.

Not one of the groups that reached the convention championship video games in 2020 ranked greater than twelfth in rush makes an attempt. That was the place the Packers stood. The Payments have been seventeenth, the Chiefs twenty third and the Bucs twenty ninth.

Some analysts criticized the Steelers for selecting Harris with their first decide. Standard analyst Warren Sharp of SharpFootballAnalysis.com ripped the choice by pointing to the staff’s poor latest run blocking and stating, “Think about considering a RB will remedy this.” There have been a number of points with that assertion, beginning with the truth that the road from the previous a number of seasons had been utterly dismantled, and the Steelers went on to pick out linemen they anticipate to contribute within the third (heart Kendrick Inexperienced) and fourth (sort out Dan Moore).

MORE: The 11 finest late-round steals within the 2021 NFL Draft

The road definitely will have to be higher in 2021, which is why the Steelers have been content material to see Maurkice Pouncey retire, and to permit left sort out Alejandro Villanueva and left guard Matt Feiler to stroll in free company.

The one starter again in place is correct guard David DeCastro. Final yr’s fourth-round decide, Kevin Dotson, will take over at left guard. Zach Banner might be again at proper sort out after injuring his knee within the 2020 opener and lacking the rest of the yr. Chuks Okorafor, who took over at that spot, will transfer to left sort out. Inexperienced, if he succeeds, will begin at heart. This group could also be higher or worse than final yr’s, but it surely is not going to be the identical.

Neither will the strategy. The Steelers’ trapping schemes haven’t labored nice for some time now. They’ve ranked within the high third of the league in yards per try solely twice previously 10 years and completed twenty second on common. Tomlin particularly referenced, within the information convention earlier than the draft, “We’re able to performing higher than we have now,” and by that he didn’t imply the Steelers usually. He meant the coaches specifically. There might be an altered strategy underneath new offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

That ought to imply the Steelers working in another way, and extra successfully. If the purpose have been to be the Ravens (who completed beneath the Steelers within the 2020 AFC North) or the Titans (who received the identical variety of playoff video games), then a dedication to working the ball extra would make sense.



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