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Looking to get ground game rolling

Posted Sep 18, 2012


The Steelers have a long history of running backs producing 100-yard games, but so far in two games this season they haven’t averaged 100 yards rushing per game as a team, with only 54 rushes for 141 yards for a 2.6-yard average per carry.

“We haven’t run the ball as well as we have liked,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “I’m not interested in assigning blame in that regard. I will take responsibility for it.

“The reality is we’ve got room for growth. We need to tighten up our menu and lean on the things we are doing well. We need to block better and put the ball where it needs to be on a more consistent basis.”

The Steelers have been without running back Rashard Mendenhall in the first two weeks, although Tomlin did say he would get more work in practice this week but his status for Sunday’s game on the road against the Oakland Raiders has not been determined. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman have shared the workload for the running game, with Dwyer averaging 3.4 yards per carry and Redman two yards per carry through two games.

“We all have a hand in where our running game is right now,” said Tomlin. “I hope that we all have a hand in correcting it in the near future. I know it needs to be an asset for us moving forward, particularly as we move into a hostile environment like the one we are going into this weekend.”

The Steelers were able to move the ball on the ground in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Heinz Field this past week, with eight rushing plays for 31 yards during a drive that was a little over 10 minutes and ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Redman.

Tomlin was pleased with the performance of the ground game on the drive, but not fully satisfied.

“I’m looking for more than that,” said Tomlin. “We were able to run the ball and possess the ball. I think we ran it six or seven times for right around 30 yards. That’s not what I’m looking for. I’m actually looking for better than that.”

The Steelers passing game has accounted for 520 yards through two games, with Ben Roethlisberger completing 46 of 71 pass attempts.

The key now is to get the offense balanced, something Tomlin is confident will come in time.

“I think in the long term we seek balance,” said Tomlin. “It’s dangerous to look for those types of things at this juncture because we’re only two weeks, or eight quarters of football, into it. Over the long haul, absolutely we intend to strike a balance offensively and possess the ball and score. It’s just probably a little early for us, at this point, to paint with a broad brush.”

* * *

Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke has only been on the Steelers roster a few weeks, signed after the former third-round pick was released by the Raiders, but has already made an impact on special teams and his potential to help the secondary is also something the team likes.

“He’s done a great job,” said Tomlin. “He downed a punt for us. He was there for that play on that mishandled punt last week. I thought he showed awareness as a punt return guy, pushing a gunner into the end zone who was trying to down a ball. Obviously, he’s been an asset to us in that area.

“But quite frankly, the things that attracted us to him are the same things that attracted us to him when he came out in the draft. We thought that he was a long, fast kid with man coverage ability. We compared him very favorably to Cortez Allen and really took a similar approach to those guys. He’s in that draft class with Cortez and Curtis Brown and we’re thankful to have three young corners from a draft class just a couple of years ago in our program that are working to improve on a daily basis.”

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