View Full Version : Steelers Running Game & Lack Of Directional Balance The Last 3 Seasons

Hawaii 5-0
05-28-2012, 12:12 AM
Steelers Running Game & Lack Of Directional Balance The Last Three Seasons

Sunday, May 27th, 2012 by Dave Bryan

One thing that has been noticeably different since Alan Faneca left the Pittsburgh Steelers is the ability of the offense to be balanced directionally as far as running plays go. With the drafting of Stanford guard David DeCastro and the move of Willie Colon from right tackle to left guard now, the Steelers offense will hope to be much more balanced than the previous three seasons.

Since Faneca left, the Steelers have had problems finding any semblance of productive stability on the offensive line thanks to injuries and inconsistent play. The first course of action was to shore up the center position when they drafted Maurkice Pouncey in 2010. The second course of action was the drafting of Marcus Gilbert in 2011 and the third course of action took place this past April with the selections of DeCastro and Mike Adams, and the subsequent move of Colon inside.

Offensive line coach Sean Kugler has juggled so many line combinations since arriving from Buffalo that he could serve as center ring circus act. He should be commended for getting what he has out of the offensive line the last two seasons.

Over the last three seasons the Steelers running backs have rushed for 5016 yards on 1183 non-penalty carries for an average of 4.24 a carry. That number, according to my stats for all running backs over those three years, comes in just under the league average of 4.27 yards per carry. Not too bad considering all of the variables.

Since Faneca left, Chris Kemoeatu has been the primary left guard and there has been a merry-go-round at right guard and both tackle spots. Kemoeatu was never a great straight ahead run blocker, and while his trapping ability was the best part of his game, it was wildly inconsistent. The Steelers ability to trap right to left is also something that has been both non existent and inconsistent over the recent years. DeCastro and Colon should fix all of this and a healthy Pouncey should also magnify the abilities of both.

Colon has made it known since his move inside that you will see both guards pulling quite a bit and that is a welcomed thought. While Colon is new to the position, he should be an improvement over Kemoeatu in every facet of his game and DeCastro is, well, DeCastro. If I have to explain this it means you haven't seen any of his college tape.

So enough about what is coming. Let's look at the Steelers running backs by direction the last three seasons. Keep in mind that the stats below are pulled from the play by plays of all the regular season games. Also keep in mind that these can be somewhat subjective, and we also have no way of knowing where a play was designed to go. What the stats show is a broad based snapshot, but they are pretty telling.

To clarify a few things. A run is considered a success by a running back in the stats below when he picks up 40% of the yards needed on first down, 60% of the yards needed on second down and 100% of the yards needed on both third and fourth down. Stuffs are plays that go for zero or negative yards.

You can see that last year alone that the Steelers running backs ran to the right 52% of the time for a 4.74 yards per carry with a 55% success rate. Although they had a 54% success rate to the left side and a 4.48 yards per carry, the stuff rate was 25%. That means that one out of every four runs to the left went for zero or negative yardage. Runs to right guard and right tackle was really the bread and butter as it accounted for 46% of all runs. They had a 55% success rate those two directions with only an 18% stuff rate.

In 2010 the offense attempted to be a bit more balanced directionally, but the success to left side just was not there. It also wasn't good up the middle either, Kemoeatu anyone? Just look at the success and stuff rates when running to left tackle and left guard. Also look at the yards per carry from center to left tackle. Ramon Foster and Flozell Adams both deserve a gold star for the work the did on the right side that season along with tight end Heath Miller. That team actually made it to the Super Bowl.

In 2009 the team was heavy to the right side again with 51% of all runs by running backs logged to the right side. They managed 4.74 yards per carry to the right that year with just an 18% stuff rate.

By looking at all of these stats from the last three seasons from several angles, you can see that the Steelers focus is to return to some semblance of balance with a strong success rate and a low stuff rate. No brainer there. The interior of the Steelers line should be the best it has been in years, even with a rookie in the mix and a former right tackle at left guard. The wild card still remains both tackle spots, but Gilbert showed his ability to be a good run blocking right tackle last year and thus the Steelers likely hope Adams can win the left tackle spot outright so that he can stay on the right side, where he should only get better.

This will be one of the many things that I will monitor this season and a more balanced run game directionally should open up the passing game even more for Ben Roethlisberger and keep him off the ground much more in addition.


Ricco Suavez
05-28-2012, 10:34 AM
Now I would clarify this a great informative post. I knew we did not run the ball with any consistency yet I will be honest I did not notice the difference in our ability to run based on which side we ran. With an improvement in personnel on the line and hopefully an injury free and some time together as a unit this line will make those 2nd and long and 3rd and long less frequent. Not to mention the opposing defenses will not be able to key on our strong side. I still feel our offense did a relatively good job last year considering the run game did little to produce on first and second down, and dont forget how bad we were in short yardage situations. If Haley can get this unit to be more effective on just the first two downs, and not restrain Ben from "all" of his freelancing this could be a very good scoring team.

05-28-2012, 10:36 AM
I think the balance will improve this season, the talent's definitely there. I just hope we can be more effective on the first two downs, and in the red-zone.

Hawaii 5-0
05-28-2012, 10:06 PM
2011 Rushing Stats Of Rashard Mendenhall & Isaac Redman By Direction & Down

Monday, May 28th, 2012 by Dave Bryan

I received a few emails since the post yesterday in which I broke down the rushing of the Pittsburgh Steelers running backs by direction and was asked if I could post the stats of each running back by direction and down from 2011. I compiled the stats of just Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman below as there really is no reason to do Mewelde Moore, Jonathan Dwyer and John Clay as they all combined for 48 carries total.

Both Mendenhall and Redman finished with a 52% and 53% success rate respectively. To reiterate what makes a play a successful play, if a back gains 40% of the yardage needed on first down, 60% of the yardage needed on second down and 100% of the yardage needed on both third and fourth down, the run was deemed a success.

Although Redman had a 5.38 yards per carry to the left side on 21 carries and a success play rate of 62%, he also was stuffed 5 plays for zero or negative yards for a 24% stuff rate. Mendenhall had a 29% stuff rate to the left and only a 3.26 yards per carry on 38 carries to that side.

Of course down, distance and field position play a big role in these stats, Mendenhall managed a better yards per carry, a better success rate and a lower stuff rate than Redman on first down carries last season. Redman was the much better second down back, although he had half as many carries as Mendenhall did. It is also pretty revealing that Mendenhall received only 6 carries on 3rd and 4th downs compared to 14 for Redman. 10 of those 14 runs by Redman were deemed successful with only 2 of the remaining for being stuffs. Mendenhall was stuffed on both of his 4th down carries last year and 3 of 6 carries on 3rd and 4th downs combined were stuffs.

The big question heading into this year is whether or not Redman can handle a bigger load with Mendenhall expected to start the season on the PUP list. He is a much more violent runner than Mendenhall is though and the rebuilt offensive line should fit his straight ahead style well. The line, as I pointed out in the previous post, must prevent less stuffs this year and the Steelers must be able to be more balanced directionally as well.

I fully expect this to be a run first offense early on in the season until Ben Roethlisberger and the young wide receivers all get in tune with the new offense of Todd Haley. I think Redman is more than adequate to be able to handle the extra work, but do expect him to be spelled on third downs quite a bit and that will probably be either Baron Batch or Chris Rainey doing the spelling from time to time. I could also see Mendenhall slowly working in a series here and there once he returns from the PUP list as well.

Rashard Mendenhall By Direction

RUSH 5 12 21 69 58 43 20 228
DIR % 2% 5% 9% 30% 25% 19% 9% 100%
YDS -10 51 83 317 203 187 97 928
YPC -2.00 4.25 3.95 4.59 3.50 4.35 4.85 4.07
SUC 0 6 10 34 35 22 11 118
SUC % 0% 50% 48% 49% 60% 51% 55% 52%
STF 3 4 4 17 9 7 5 49
STF % 60% 33% 19% 25% 16% 16% 25% 21%
1ST 0 2 1 12 10 6 5 36
LNG 2 12 13 68 15 18 23 68

Isaac Redman By Direction

RUSH 3 8 10 34 39 15 1 110
DIR % 3% 7% 9% 31% 35% 14% 1% 100%
YDS 12 38 63 100 197 75 1 486
YPC 4.00 4.75 6.30 2.94 5.05 5.00 1.00 4.42
SUC 0 5 8 13 24 8 0 58
SUC % 0% 63% 80% 38% 62% 53% 0% 53%
STF 2 2 1 4 7 4 0 20
STF % 67% 25% 10% 12% 18% 27% 0% 18%
1ST 0 2 6 7 9 3 0 27
LNG 14 14 15 12 27 22 1 27

Rashard Mendenhall By Down

2011 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOT
RUSH 145 77 4 2 228
DWN % 64% 34% 2% 1% 100%
YDS 615 301 12 0 928
YPC 4.24 3.91 3.00 0.00 4.07
SUC 73 43 2 0 118
SUC % 50% 56% 50% 0% 52%
STF 30 16 1 2 49
STF % 21% 21% 25% 100% 21%
1ST 12 22 2 0 36
LNG 68 15 8 0 68

Isaac Redman By Down

2011 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOT
RUSH 65 31 13 1 110
DWN % 59% 28% 12% 1% 100%
YDS 271 160 52 3 486
YPC 4.17 5.16 4.00 3.00 4.42
SUC 29 19 9 1 58
SUC % 45% 61% 69% 100% 53%
STF 15 3 2 0 20
STF % 23% 10% 15% 0% 18%
1ST 7 10 9 1 27
LNG 27 20 13 3 27%