The Pittsburgh Steelers were really hoping that this season will give them an opportunity to use better running backs than Isaac Redman. Injuries and bad luck have prevented that from happening, and maintaining their dependency on a back who isn’t good enough to rejuvenate a very bad ground game.
Redman ran for 9 yards on 8 carries in a sad start to the 2013 season for the Steelers, losing 16-9 to the Tennessee Titans. In total, the Steelers rushed for 32 yards (not the worst in the NFL, surprisingly), and it doesn’t look like they’re going to get a lot of outside help in week 2 (facing the Bengals) as well.
While Cincinnati isn’t the best run-defense team in the NFL (22nd last season), they did stop the Chicago Bears and Matt Forte at 63 yards on the ground last week. The Steelers, bringing back Jonathan Dwyer (their leading rusher last season), need to hope that it was a one-time thing and not an actual solidifying trend at stopping the run for the Bengals.
There’s also Felix Jones, who didn’t get a touch on the ball, to consider. The former Cowboys running back has had his fair share of injuries in the past, but he should be good enough to contribute in some way to a running game that has completely stalled over the last couple of seasons, and probably won’t find the answer it’s looking for in Redman.
It should have been different this season – LeV’eon Bell came out of Michigan State and preseason as the leading candidate to be the number one back, but he’s out for at least one more month. LaRod Stephens-Howling came with plenty of promise, but he tore his ACL, and it’s unlikely we’ll see anything from him this season.
So the Steelers are left with Redman, a back who averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season. Instead of going back to a power-running team, the Steelers need to continue to rely on Ben Roethilsberger to make things happen with his arm, but as long as the offensive line continues opening up huge holes for pass-rushers to go through, and the running game poses no kind of threat, even that isn’t going to help them regain their dominance in the AFC North.