The Steelers did not have a running game in 2012. There were expectations that the Steelers would turn to a running game. At this point, I’m not sure if the Steelers projected that or if the speculation from Todd Haley’s hiring spawned the expectation of a running game. Rashard Mendenhall’s much touted return to the team following his rehab along with what looked like an attempt to stack the depth chart with running backs (Redman, Dwyer, Rainey, Batch) also played into the speculation. However, I’m not sure the disappointment in the lack of running game should be a visceral, passionate disappointment. Anyone who expected a return to the “good old days” of running the football hasn’t been paying attention to what has been going on in the league.

Look at the players in the league today – everyone is bigger, faster, stronger and quite frankly, they are usually students of the game. I don’t mean that the linemen from either side of the ball from a generation ago weren’t smart. I just think one of the subtle changes is that there is a lot more “classroom” or “academic” preparation to try to gain an edge. It comes down to prepared anticipation. The linemen watch to see where the movement with the ball is going to come from and I think it is much harder to get the breakaway run. When I grew up watching football my impression of the defensive and offensive linemen were that they often looked like immovable tree stumps along the line. Now I think there is a mix of the strength and agility along those lines, particularly on the defensive side and mostly in the secondary. So how can you adjust to having a successful running game?

First, what is a successful running game?

According to the stats on the Steeler RB with the most yards last year was Jonathon Dwyer. He was ranked 30th with 623 total yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. We can all admit that Vikings Adrian Peterson is a BEAST with 2097 yards in his season and isn’t a fair comparison, but seriously the Steelers numbers from last year are abysmal. So what? What if you have several running backs and the carries are spread evenly so that none of them rank high individually? Well, ok, that’d be great, but that didn’t happen either.

The Steelers ranked 26th out of 32 last year with 1,537 rushing yards last year. The Washington Redskins (with the the phenom RGII, remember him?) had the top spot with 2709 rushing yards. The Steelers averaged 3.7 yards per carry.