The Steelers were the worst-ranked rushing offense during the 2020 season. Now in 2021, they moved up a marginal two spots to 30th overall. To say the least, the Steelers did not improve much on the ground in 2021, even with two offensive linemen being picked and Najee Harris coming aboard.
So, for president Art Rooney II, who had given a mandate down for the rushing attack to be improved in 2021, the response this offseason is an interesting one to watch. Rooney will admit to anyone that the rushing game struggled, however, he appears to be more willing to give some laxity with what he views as progress.
“Well, I’ll say this: I think I would say I feel better about our ability to run the football maybe today than I did this time last year,” Rooney said. “I think we have some pieces in place, obviously Najee and some young offensive linemen that we hope are going to come in next year and take another step. But we didn’t perform the way we’d like to, so there’s definitely room for improvement. We’ll be trying to figure out how to get that improvement in this off-season.”
Those young building blocks, aside from Harris, include Dan Moore and Kevin Dotson. Kendrick Green certainly was not what the Steelers thought he would be and he was benched late in the season for J.C. Hassenauer. For Rooney, team building starts with running the ball and stopping the run. So, there will be an emphasis on improving the running game moving forward.
“Well, I think we had our ups and downs, as I said, and at times we showed promise and showed an ability to run the football on offense, and so on offense we need to continue to be able to run the ball,” Rooney said.
The Steelers may try to incorporate more of Matt Canada’s scheme into the equation without Ben Roethlisberger around. However, the only true way for this to improve will be with more talented offensive linemen. That is the most critical part of improving the ground game, and the Steelers need to get back to that.