Musical backs, dynamic duo and more

Musical backs: Injuries at running back this season have presented a challenge for the Steelers offense with James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell and Trey Edmunds all ending up on the injury report at one point or another.

Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was asked about the challenge of playing ‘musical running backs,’ and said while it can be tough from a planning standpoint the backs have all lived up to the challenge.

“It’s funny because every week you keep talking about a different music, like what chair and who it is,” said Fichtner. “I just tip my hat to our guys because I don’t think any one of them really paid much attention to it. It’s not easy from a planning standpoint because you kind of work through the week, and then all of a sudden you start to get some of your guys back and realize there’s going to be a limited amount of reps. So what we choose to do in a game, we’ve got to make sure that we’re putting all of the guys in the best position they can be in, first, and then make sure that we at least got some reps at it or at least a rep so that they can do their job.”

The Steelers ground game has been struggling because of the injuries, averaging just 88.4yards per game, which ranks 26th in the league. Developing the consistency hasn’t been easy with the injuries, something Fichtner knows they need to work on.

“It’s collective. There’s no doubt it’s collective,” said Fichtner. “It goes back to maybe the style of runs we’re running. It goes back to what best suits that back’s potential with coordination with what best suits the offensive line, in particularly styles of runs. The gap schemes. The zone schemes. Inside, outside, those type of things. Some of it is game planning.

“I’ll be the first to say that if I don’t put them in the best situations at times, they’re not going to have a chance to do their job. So, it’s collective. It always will be. Receivers have got to block. Tight ends have to block. Quarterback can’t cut a guy off when he’s taking inside zone track and he steps to flat in the outside zone. It’s all together.

“I’m not saying it’s a work in progress, I just say that throughout all of that, if we find a way to protect the football, we’ll give our football team a chance to win, and I think everyone will be proud of it. Whatever comes out of it statistically, I’ve challenged our guys.”

Dynamic duo: Outside linebackers Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt have become a lethal combination, the two combining for a total of 13.5 sacks this season. Dupree has six, while Watt has a team high seven and a half.

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler said he hasn’t been giving them any special pointers or anything that has had them playing at such a high level. It’s just them. 

“It isn’t me. It is always good football players,” said Butler. “They have to be a significant part of our defense; our front has to be a significant part of our defense. I think our backend is starting to catch up a little bit. We are getting the turnovers and stuff that we need. We need to keep doing it and hopefully we can win some football games.”

He said it: Fichtner on if he has been picking Mark Barron’s brain this week since Barron played for the Rams.

“I’ve got to tell you, one, he’s a sharp guy, two, I’d be a fool not to,” said Fichtner. “He knows all of their defensive signals, their calls, and all that. Now, what all of that can be helpful to us? I don’t know, but it’s an awesome thing. Yeah, he was the first person I talked to.”

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