Working through the growing pains

Right guard David DeCastro pulled around left end and into the end zone, but was surprised to find running back Trey Edmunds hadn’t followed him.

Edmunds had instead gone up the middle on second-and-goal from the Colts’ 1-yard line late in the first quarter on Sunday and wound up losing 2 yards.

DeCastro responded with palms-up befuddlement.

“I looked a little disappointed? Yeah, I know,” DeCastro admitted this week. “We thought there was money outside.”

Added head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday: ”I thought ball-placement was the issue. If Trey slides to his left and follows DeCastro, he walks into the end zone. It had nothing to do with winning or losing the line of scrimmage. Sometimes, it has to do with ball-placement.”

That’s been a periodic issue for the Steelers ever since running back James Conner acknowledged he hit the wrong hole and was stopped for no gain on the first third-and-1 of the season on Sept. 8 at New England.

The subject of ball-placement has been brought up on occasion by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner since then, and by Tomlin.

It’s one of the details the Steelers are working on to get the running game humming in the manner they believe they need to function.

“It doesn’t always go where it’s supposed to go, where a coach would say on paper ‘this is where it goes,’” Fichtner explained. “There aren’t probably many routes that get run exactly how we drew it up on paper because it’s never going to play out like that.

“The naturalness of a runner puts the ball in the position and gains positive yardage. If there’s any indecision it’s probably based on just youth, I say it with a young quarterback but I say it with a young back. You put them in a situation where you’re maybe on the goal line, maybe you don’t take the proper depth. Maybe you get a little anxious and you want to hurry up and get that ball across that line, so you forget about maybe your initial footwork, forget about the read, ‘I’m doing everything I can to get the ball, and man, I’m gonna score my first touchdown.’ Those things come into play.

“I can see where a young, immature NFL football player would do some things like that.”

That goal-line carry was Edmunds’ second of the game, his third with the Steelers and third in the NFL since he had run the ball nine times for New Orleans in 2017.

Edmunds scored one touchdown for the Saints.

He’s still looking for his first TD with the Steelers.

“Trey wants to be a good darn back and he wants to be in this league and he wants to present himself well and help our football team win,” Fichtner said. “I don’t know how you coach experience in a less-experienced guy. It’s just going to take some lumps, and that might have been one for him.”

DeCastro, likewise, was understanding of how Edmunds reacted.

“There’s always a plan and it’s predetermined where you want it to go but a defense can do things, as well, that’ll change that up,” DECastro said. “It’s just part of football, part of life. That’s why it’s a team game, that’s why you love it.

“We have injuries, guys haven’t run the play in the game before, that’s kinda what happens. The same way with me, I’ve gotten better because I have reps in this league. A guy like (quarterback) Mason (Rudolph) is the same way. Guys are getting new reps and it’s kinda part of the growing pains.”

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