Statistical findings on run game

After poring over every game tape this season, Jim Wexell has come up with the evidence that proves Pittsburgh Steelers running back Willie Parker was right.

Mike Tomlin was right on the mark when he inferred that Willie Parker's complaints this week were informed.

The Steelers' coach wasn't happy that Parker complained about Bruce Arians' tight end-heavy offense, but Tomlin knows Parker isn't wrong about these facts concerning the run offense this season:

* Two TEs/One back – 111-343, 3.1 yards per carry.

* Three TEs/One back – 22-61, 2.8 yards per carry.

The numbers were gleaned after discarding QB scrambles and kneeldowns, as well as goal-line jumbo-package running plays.

So, running out of a one-back offense with two or three tight ends, the Steelers this season have carried 133 times for 404 yards at a paltry clip of 3.0 yards per carry.

Of course, Tomlin did publicly mock his hard-working, team-oriented running back by saying that Parker had not complained about the same offense when he was successful last year and early this year. But, again, Parker did NOT succeed without a fullback. Last year, with Dan Kreider on the roster, the Steelers' fullbacks started 10 games. This year, without Kreider, the Steelers' fullbacks have started four games with their time decreasing each week.

In Parker's best game this season, the opener against the Houston Texans, Parker averaged 6.0 yards per carry with a fullback on nine carries. In the 2TE/1RB set, he averaged 4.4 yards on nine carries. Also, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sustained his injured shoulder, an injury that's affected his entire season, while attempting to throw out of the 2TE/1RB set.


The study of the Steelers' offensive run game produced one surprising statistic:

* Three WRs/One RB -- 121-564, 4.7 yards per carry.

This may not fit the Steelers' storied tradition of physical offense, but it would seem to fit Parker's body build and speed.

The Steelers have run out of this set 10 more times than any of their four other sets, with by far their most productive numbers.

The Steelers used this set most often in the first game against the Ravens, but gained only 43 yards on 12 carries. Against the Patriots -- after which Tomlin mocked reporters who'd criticized his team's run game -- the Steelers had their most success of the season running out of 3WR/1RB sets, gaining 96 yards on 15 carries.


Even those who agree with Parker say that this wasn't the right time for him to speak out, that there's nothing to be done right now.


In the second win over the Bengals, after the Steelers had struggled to run the ball 21 times for 95 yards -- against an opponent they've tortured on the ground the last 15 years -- the Steelers put fullback Sean McHugh on the field. He'd been picked up earlier in the year as Arians' beloved third tight end, but as has been his history in pro, college and high school ball, the 6-foo-5, 265-pound McHugh found himself at fullback. And the Steelers cleaned up.

With the Bengals knowing the Steelers would run the ball, the Steelers powered their way to 30 yards on six carries to close out the game.

Did the Steelers finally find their fullback? After all, wasn't McHugh the guy who a few weeks earlier had popped hated Raven Bart Scott's helmet off like he was popping a pimple?

Well, apparently the Steelers had not found their fullback. After throwing excitement into players and coaches who'd been complaining – along with Parker – all season long about the offense, Tomlin refused to build from the Cincinnati game. He and Arians used a fullback – Heath Miller – in the backfield once against New England for a loss of three yards, and last week against Dallas the Steelers ran behind a fullback only four times for 10 yards, thus completing our statistical findings on the fourth and fifth Steelers run sets:

* Two TEs/two RBs – 51-192, 3.8 yards per carry.

* One TE/two RBs – 28-101, 3.6 yards per carry.

And one more fact about the timing of Parker's comments: They were made a week after Kreider had been released by the St. Louis Rams. Parker understands that the time to act is now, not March.

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