Variety, productivity highlight ground game

ORCHARD, PARK, N.Y. - The running game the Steelers unleashed on the Bills was as multi-faceted as it was unstoppable.

The Steelers ran from one-running back, one-tight end, three-wide receivers sets. They ran when three tight ends were in the game at the same time. They ran when No. 74, offensive lineman Chris Hubbard, was eligible. And they ran with fullback Roosevelt Nix lined up in front of running back Le' Veon Bell.

And they rushed for more yards (240) than they threw for (220) in Sunday afternoon's 27-20 victory over Buffalo at New Era Field.

"We were running pretty good regardless of what we had out there," head coach Mike Tomlin observed.

The bulk of the running was done by Bell, who rushed 38 times for a franchise-record 236 yards and tied a franchise record with three rushing touchdowns.

After a first half that saw the Steelers attempt 26 passes, run Bell 13 times and head to the locker room with a 14-7 advantage, the approach changed in the third and fourth quarters. Bell carried 25 times, running back Fitz Toussaint got it once (spelling Bell after a 33-yard gain to the Bills' 22-yard line in the third) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took a knee three times to close out the game.

Le'Veon Bell rushed for 236 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Buffalo Bills as he surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the 2016 season.

While all of that was happening, the Steelers' defense was holding the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack to 67 yards on 18 attempts.

The Bills gained 34 of their 67 rushing yards on the final two plays of the first half, a 22-yard burst by running back Mike Gillislee on second-and-21 from the Buffalo 4 with 11 seconds left prior to halftime, and a 12-yard run by Gillislee with four seconds remaining before the break.

Running back LeSean McCoy rushed for a touchdown but was held to 27 yards on 12 attempts.

"If we can do this we can have success against anybody," guard David DeCastro said. "When our defense plays like that and gives us a chance to stick with the run, we're going to be a hard team to beat."

Tomlin credited the run blocking for handling whatever the Bills threw at the Steelers schematically.

"They did a good job blocking a myriad of fronts because as the game wore on they threw a lot at us," Tomlin said.

DeCastro considered running from multiple personnel packages a necessity given how often the Steelers ran.

"They know you're running the ball, so you gotta change it up somehow," he said. "That keeps them honest. Give credit to (offensive coordinator Todd) Haley and 'Munch' (offensive line coach Mike Munchak) and all those offensive coordinator guys."


THIS BUD'S FOR TWO:** William Gay and Bud Dupree handled the vast majority of the snaps at outside linebacker. Dupree had two of the Steelers' five sacks (strong safety Sean Davis had one-and-a-half sacks, linebacker Ryan Shazier had one and defensive end Stephon Tuitt was credited with half of a sack).

"I have a lot of work still to do but I'm finally starting to get back in the groove and it feels great," Dupree said. "Every week is going to be a stepping stone for me because I'm behind. I'm going to be an attribute to the team. I just have to keep grinding."

Dupree assessed the Steelers' approach to run defense as relatively basic.

"Beat your man in front of you, playing Steelers ball, simple," he said.


PICK THREE:** Roethlisberger attributed the first of his three interceptions to he and tight end Ladarius Green not being on the same page.

"I thought he was going to break under, he kinda stopped," Roethlisberger said.

On the second, "I should have just called time out," Roethlisberger said. "We didn't have the personnel on the field. We tried to rush it and I threw it a little early (for wide receiver Antonio Brown), so that's on me."

On the third, "I'd throw that ball the same way (for tight end Jesse James in the end zone) 10 out of 10 times," Roethlisberger said. "That linebacker (Zach Brown) made one heck of a play. That was just truly spectacular."


TRIPLE DIGITS:** The victory was Tomlin's 100th in the regular season with the Steelers.

"It means I've been here awhile," Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger thought it meant more than that.

"I gave him the game ball, if I'm allowed to do that," Roethlisberger said. "There are a lot of coaches that have coached this game that probably wish they had 100 wins. For him to get it, that's awesome."


THEY SAID IT:** "That's what Steelers do. We play hard-nosed football and physical and that's how we play." _ Nix.

"Whatever we ran, we knew we weren't going to be denied. We gotta have that same demeanor. We gotta come out with the will that that we will not be stopped." _ Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert on the running game.

"He's a Columbus, Ohio and an East Lansing (Mich.) runner. That was one of the things that attracted us to him in the draft process. These environments are not foreign to him. In fact, he relishes the opportunity to perform in them." _ Tomlin on Bell running in bad weather.

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