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Steelers Run Game Tramples Panthers in Emphatic Fashion



The Steelers offense huddles up as they played against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. (Mitchell Northam / Steelers Now)

CHARLOTTE — The Steelers rushing attack was the main focus of the team after the bye week, but it had a hiccup against a stout Baltimore Ravens front in Week 14. With that in mind, they had to respond in some manner in order to defeat the Panthers, who had a surging rushing attack of their own. So, how did they respond?

How about 45 carries for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns? It was an impressive performance for Pittsburgh, as Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren diced up the Carolina squad. But the icing on the top was a dominant 21-play, 91-yard drive that ended in a quarterback sneak touchdown for Mitch Trubisky.

“So, that was one thing we said at the half was that we had to come out and start fast,” Harris said. “Cause that is one thing, sometimes we come out at the half and start slow. So, for us to take that much time off, we knew it was going to be a game of possessions because they run the ball and we run the ball. So, in a game of possessions to take off 11 minutes, I was telling everybody that’s how you run the ball and eat the clock.”

The offensive line was the unsung hero of it all. Behind a cohesive unit that is growing to create more lanes by the game, Harris, and Warren had plenty of room to run. After not having a semblance of a rushing attack in the first half of the season, suddenly the Steelers are growing to be one of the more feared units in the NFL when they lined up from opposing teams.

“Coach T challenged the offensive line at the beginning of the week,” Dan Moore said. “We knew what type of game we wanted it to be. We just went out there and executed. It was all 11 guys. Najee ran great.”

However, where this growth becomes even more key is on the first and second down. Pittsburgh was productive on those situations, and it made their drives a lot easier by staying ahead of the sticks. Coming into the game, Pittsburgh was 30th in yards per play on first down, but that should go up after this game. For Mason Cole and the offensive line that became a focus throughout the week. And after coming through, the Steelers converted 11 of 14 third downs on the day, a testament to those efforts.

“We talk all the time in our room how on first down we’ve gotta be efficient,” Cole said. “If we run the ball and we don’t get 3 yards, it’s 2nd and 8 or 2nd and 9, good chance we’re throwing the ball again. If it’s incomplete then we’re in a tough spot at that point. We’ve had a lot of plays where we talked about being efficient on 1st down. Some of those 3, 4, 5 yard runs make us looser.”

The running backs can not be discounted in this equation. Harris climbed for 11 rushing yards over expectation while Warren toiled for 8 rushing yards over expectation. They were productive, and Warren found the endzone for his first career rushing score. It was no surprise the running game was firing on all cylinders when both the offensive line and running backs were on the same page.

“We were all out there getting a feel for each other’s game,” Warren said. “Being out there, everybody was out there doing their job, not worrying about anything else. It was exactly what we wanted.”

If Pittsburgh’s plan was to run the ball as well as they did, they succeeded with more than flying colors. They now go back to the drawing board as they face the Las Vegas Raiders on Christmas Eve on the Steelers key anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.

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