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Running like never before

The Steelers established once again in 2016 that they're going to remain committed to running the football much more often than not.

Their devotion to the running game likely has a great deal to do with what often happens when they aren't able to run the ball effectively.

The Steelers failed to rush for 100 yards as a team seven times in the 2016 regular season and went 3-4 when that happened.

When they were able to amass at least 100 yards on the ground, the record was 8-1.

It was more of the same in the playoffs.

The Steelers rushed for 179 yards on Jan. 8 against Miami, just 9 fewer yards than they gained passing, and won, 30-12.

They rushed for 171 yards on Jan. 15 at Kansas City and won, 18-16.

And they were held to 54 yards on the ground on Jan. 22 at New England and lost, 36-17.

That loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game included Bell carrying just six times for 20 yards and being done for good by the second quarter due to a groin injury.

But when Bell was healthy in January, the Steelers ran the ball more effectively than they had previously in their postseason history.

Bell carried 29 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns and broke Franco Harris' franchise postseason record of 158 rushing yards in Super Bowl IX in the Miami game.

And Bell eclipsed the franchise postseason record he had established the previous week against Miami with 170 yards on 30 carries at Kansas City.

The Miami game, in particular, resonated in terms of the running game's evolution in 2016.

Bell had been suspended when the season began.

The Steelers also had to work around injuries to left guard Ramon Foster, center Maurkice Pouncey and right tackle Marcus Gilbert in the season's first seven weeks.

And the down-the-field passing game wasn't the same after wide receiver Sammie Coates got hurt on Oct. 9 against the Jets.
But by the time the Steelers hosted the Dolphins in the playoff opener, the running game had developed to the degree that the Steelers were able to hand the ball to Bell on 10 consecutive snaps in the final 3:01 of the first quarter and the initial 2:21 of the second.

Bell churned out 78 yards on those 10 consecutive carries (the Dolphins were also penalized 5 yards for encroachment) on what became an 83-yard march into the end zone.

That's what can happen when commitment and capability define a team's running game.

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