Sometimes, it's anecdotal. Other times, it comes from first-hand experience. When it comes to the Steelers and the Jaguars' running attack, it's both.
The Steelers can do some very minor research and quickly learn about the quality of the running attack employed by their upcoming opponent in Sunday's AFC Divisional Round Game at Heinz Field. Jacksonville finished the 2017 regular season ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards per game, and their rookie running back, Leonard Fournette, finished eighth in the league with 1,040 yards on 268 attempts and nine touchdowns, and his 90-yard touchdown run was the longest in the league this season.
Because that 90-yard touchdown run came on Oct. 8 at Heinz Field, and because 181 of his 1,040 yards came that same afternoon, the Steelers know from experience how effective the Jaguars can be when running the football.
"They're the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL, and they ran the ball very effectively against us the last time," said Mike Tomlin at his news conference earlier today at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. "Leonard Fournette was central to that, but you can fool yourself if you're only fully committed to stopping him."
That's because Fournette (1040) has accounted for less than half the rushing yards (46 percent) the Jaguars accumulated this season (2262), while for comparison's sake, Le'Veon Bell (1,291) has accounted for 77.4 percent of the 1,667 rushing yards the Steelers managed this season.
"They are the No. 1 rushing team in football," said Tomlin, with an emphasis on the word "team." "Chris Ivory is a quality, quality running back. T.J. Yeldon has played very well when given an opportunity, and (quarterback) Blake (Bortles) is extremely mobile, and his mobility is a factor in the game."
Ivory finished second to Fournette this season with 382 yards, and Bortles was right behind with 322, which came on a combination of designed running plays and scrambles on designed pass plays. In fact, in Jacksonville's victory over Buffalo in the Wild Card Round that served to send them to Pittsburgh this weekend, Bortles out-rushed Fournette, 88-57, and he averaged 8.8 per attempt.
Besides Fournette and Ivory, the other backs on the Jaguars roster include T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, and Tommy Bohanon, and those three guys added 5-6 yards to the team total.
"Leonard Fournette is the featured guy, he's a 1,000-yard rusher, but those other three guys collective have 1,000 as well," said Tomlin.
"Minimizing their run is more than focusing on Leonard. We have to do a good job there, but we have to do a good job in all areas for 60 minutes if we want to minimize the ways that they run the ball and the ways they possess the ball and control the game."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"It was a great week for Antonio. We practiced (Monday), and he was a full participant. We're excited about where he is, and we'll continue to monitor his participation throughout the week and gauge his availability based on that. We can't take steps backward as we prepare, both collectively and with him in terms of his physical health. The only other injury really to speak of is B.J. Finney, who was injured in-game Week 17. He has been out. He has a chance to participate this week, and we'll let the amount of participation and the quality of that participation determine whether he gets a helmet or not."