PITTSBURGH — Broderick Jones does not know if he will start against the Packers yet, but he is running with the first team. And while he does that, the standard for Pittsburgh’s ground game isn’t high enough for him. Jones replaced Chuks Okorafor unexpectedly against the Titans. But it sparked the rushing attack, blowing the Titans front open for 166 yards and 5.5 yards per carry on the night.
Jones impressed in that game, allowing just one pressure in the passing game while doubling off that in the run game. Pittsburgh pulled guards and one tackle, Jones, out in space to highlight his athleticism. Dan Moore Jr. knows they shortened the menu with those pulling guys. Jones is not even sure if it will be in the game plan going forward, but it was a key change they made.
“Yea, we went in there wanting to run what we did well,” Moore said. “Just kind of just narrowing down our list of runs and kind of getting to our bread and butter. It was really just pounding that and dressing it up to make it look a little bit different. Some of that was pulling guys in space.”
Broderick Jones is Not Satisfied
Jones, however, comes from Georgia. Down in the SEC, they routinely crushed fronts and ran for 300 yards, sometimes during games. So, Jones slightly tempered his expectations for the NFL. But 166 rushing yards is not going to appease Jones. He wants over 200 yards every week.
“Honestly, for me, I don’t feel like that’s good enough,” Jones said. “I came from Georgia, not to dwell on the past but we were big on running the football. I want to be 200+ every time. That’s just me. I know this is the NFL, but if we don’t commit to the run game, you have to do it all the way through. It’s not good enough.”
If you ask Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, they will credit the offensive line and their execution for that sudden boost. From those schematic changes, Pittsburgh did a fantastic job of getting to the second level and dishing out punishment to linebackers and safeties trying to fill the gap. Harris and Warren burst to multiple explosive runs following those plays, and they saw it all happen.
“Shoutout to the offensive line,” Harris said. “They were a huge reason why we won the game. The holes they created were huge. We moved the ball well because of the game. They played great.”
Pittsburgh’s rookie class was about as important to that success as anyone. But Jones will dish out the love right back to the running backs. Warren had 41 rushing yards over expectation. Harris created something out of nothing multiple times to spring the rushing attack. Their ability to make defenders miss at the second level was a huge boost to the run game that already saw better blocking.
“It’s a team effort,” Jones said. “Those guys do a great job of seeing the holes, being able to hit it downhill. They do a great job of second level contact. Like, running through contact, all of those things play a factor in the ground game. So, it’s a team effort.”
Pittsburgh will now hope that they can continue that success on the ground, and they believe that the success is repeatable, even against a talented Packers front that is playing well and allowing just 2.3 yards per carry over the last two games. If Jones has his way, they will run roughshod through the line, even if they are playing better than they were earlier this season.