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Steelers Moved Cam Heyward to Nose Tackle in Attempt to Shore Up Run Defense



CINCINNATI — The Pittsburgh Steelers had allowed over five yards per carry in the rushing game to three straight opponents and five of six coming into Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers have been hurting all season along the defensive line, as Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu and Carlos Davis have all been out since September.

That has led to increased playing time for youngsters like Isaiah Buggs, Isaiahh Loudermilk, Henry Mondeaux and Daniel Archibong, to mixed results so far. To change things up, the Steelers entered the Bengals game with a different plan.

Buggs was moved to the inactive list. Usual end/tackle Cam Heyward was moved inside to the nose tackle position in the base 3-4 defense, with Chris Wormley and Mondeaux starting alongside him.

The idea was to use Heyward, the Steelers’ best defensive lineman, to shore up the point of attack on rushing plays and let the younger, smaller players have more one-on-one assignments.

“We decided to go with Cam Heyward to solidify us a little bit more in the interior portions of our defense,” Tomlin said.

The execution of the idea? Well that was left a little bit lacking.

The Bengals rushed for 57 of 75 yards on the game’s opening scoring drive and Joe Mixon went on to become the first player to rush for 100 yards in the first half against the Steelers since 1998 and set a career high in rushing yards. Mixon finished with 165 yards on 20 carries, for a 5.9 yards per carry average.

After the opening drive, the Steelers spent most of their afternoon in their Nickel and Dime packages, making the changes at nose tackle less meaningful, but the effort to correct the run defense was certainly not successful.

“We mixed things up,” Heyward said. “First time playing nose the whole game. I felt confident in the game plan but we didn’t get the W. We’ve got to learn from this, go back to practice.”

Or back to the drawing board for another way to keep the banged-up Steelers front line from being gashed in the ground game.

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