MINNESOTA — The Steelers’ have had trouble with the run all season.
That goes for the defensive side of the ball, where this team is on pace to break the franchise record for rushing yards allowed in a season, and for the offensive side of the ball, where first-round pick Najee Harris has had very little rushing room and is currently 43rd in the league in rushing yards per carry.
On Thursday Night, that disparity manifested itself in a big way. The Steelers allowed 242 yards rushing to Dalvin Cook and company, while Harris was able to eke out 94 yards, only after the Minnesota defense softened with a big lead in the second half.
While Cook is a special runner and one of the best in the NFL, it wasn’t about the quality of backs. Breaking down the 36-28 loss to the Vikings, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said the difference was up front.
“We’re getting handled up front on both sides of the ball and that makes it difficult,” Tomlin said. “It makes it difficult to do what we desire to do. It makes it difficult to maintain balance, difficult to dictate to our opponents and what happens next. It’s going to be tough sledding for us until we get better in that area. We were not good in that area. We were JV again tonight, and I’m talking about up front on both sides. We lost the battle in the line of scrimmages, and that’s football.”
It’s not the first time the Steelers have struggled in those areas this season, though it may be the first time it almost singlehandedly cost the team a game.
Tomlin pledged that he will leave nothing untried when it comes to searching for answers, but the biggest problem for the Steelers it the lack of availability of their regulars.
The team started Thursday night without two of its starting defensive lineman and was down to its fifth option at left guard. During the game, both starting outside linebackers left the game.
“We make no excuse,” Tomlin said. “It is what it is. We’ve got to be better than we were.”
For the second time this season, he hinted at potential personnel changes. The Steelers rotated players everywhere on Thursday, looking for a spark, turning to Rashaad Coward at guard at one point and rotating through all the available defensive linemen and inside linebackers.
‘We’ll turn over every stone to do that. We’ve got a long week coming up between this and our next one,” Tomlin said. “We’ll make good use of that time and assess not only what we’re doing but who we’re doing it with.”
The Steelers are off on Friday. They will likely have some bonus practice days before their sessions for Week 15 start in earnest on Wednesday.