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Double trouble

A day after head coach Mike Tomlin cited the offensive line's improved execution of double-team blocks in the wake of the most productive rushing day in years, the Steelers got back to the business of popping the pads in search of even more double-team mastery.

"We're still working on it," guard James Daniels reported prior to practice Wednesday. "We don't have, I don't think, any part of our game right now we're done working on it. So today is a good day, we're wearing pads.

"It's another good day where we can work on the double-teams."

Tomlin emphasized "the movement we're getting when we choose to double and the understanding of the timing of when to come off and when not to come off double-teams," on Tuesday.

That was in response to the Steelers rushing for 217 yards last Sunday against New Orleans, their highest total on the ground since a 240-yard effort in 2016 against Buffalo.

The ground assault included four runs of 20-plus yards.

The Steelers hadn't had one of those through their first eight games.

To get more this Sunday against the Bengals, the Steelers will need to continue demonstrating a feel for how long to hold a double-team up front and when to break off and account for the second level of the front seven.

"Cincinnati's linebackers, they do a really good job of shooting downhill and making sure those double-teams can't happen forever," Daniels continued. "Look at Cincinnati's tape, people are doubling No. 92 (defensive tackle B.J. Hill) or doubling No. 98 (defensive tackle DJ Reader, currently on the Reserved/Injured List) and No. 55 (linebacker Logan Wilson) and No. 57 (linebacker Germaine Pratt) are becoming unblocked.

"Today is a good day where we can work on that."

The Bengals held the Steelers to 75 rushing yards on 22 attempts in the Steelers' 23-20 overtime victory on Sept. 11 at Cincinnati. They've limited four of nine opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, including Carolina on Nov. 6 (18 carries, 64 rushing yards), the game prior to last weekend's bye.

Cincinnati ranks No. 17 in run defense overall at 118.8 yards per game surrendered, but limited Atlanta, the NFL's No. 4 rushing attack at 160.4 yards per game, to 107 yards on 29 carries in a 35-17 win on Oct. 23.

"Every week it changes a little bit," center Mason Cole offered. "Every week we schematically change a little bit, the style of defenses we play changes a little bit. If a linebacker's hitting it downhill faster, the double-teams are gonna be quicker. If they're kinda sitting back there, you can hang onto your double-teams more.

"So each week it's little adjustments and trying o figure out what we're doing schematically and what the defense is doing schematically and just knowing how physical we can be on the down-guy and when we have to come off."

The running backs also need to factor into the equation, as they did against the Saints.

"Najee (Harris) and Jaylen (Warren) did really well," Cole added. "They were physical and the pile was moving forward all day.

"That's a big credit to those guys back there."