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Diontae Johnson on How Steelers’ Running Game is Holding Back Its Passing Offense



Nothing has come easy for the Steelers’ offense this year. Perhaps, there is a schematic answer to all of this. The Chiefs gave the Steelers a ton of two-high looks all game, and that was the model that most teams used on the Steelers throughout the season. It was paramount that the Steelers somehow crack that code, but there was no budging to that end.

Diontae Johnson, who has maybe had the best season of anyone on the offense, knew that the Steelers’ issues stem from that, too. However, in order to beat the two-high coverage they see, the Steelers are going to have to do something they have not done all season. That means running the ball successfully.

“Last night, we saw a lot of two-high, the whole game,” Johnson said, “They were trying to bracket me and Chase the whole game. They wanted to keep everything underneath. In two-high, you obviously have to run the ball. They’re not going to let you throw it. They want to keep everything underneath. You very rarely see them go one-high. They did on like 3rd-and-2 or something like that. But that’s what we’ve been seeing, two-high because we haven’t been running the ball like we want to. But at times, we do run the ball and we show we can run the ball on teams that they said we can’t run the ball on”

It is a long-winded answer, but Johnson nails this at the point. The Steelers are seeing six-man boxes, and teams are naturally down on in their run fits by playing two-high coverages. However, the Steelers can not dictate them to change coverages because they can not run the ball.

They also played the Chiefs without their two best weapons in exploiting the middle of the field in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Pat Freiermuth. So, there is no fear of the running game, and the Steelers can not get explosive plays with their deep route tree taken away.

With that the case, the Steelers will somehow have to crack the code to run the ball somewhat more effectively. Teams are sitting in two-high and bullying them up front. That can not happen, and because it does happen, the Steelers are being methodically dominated by most teams they face.