Steelers running less than ever

The Steelers' evolving offense pulls into Denver for Monday night's game leaning less on their ground game than at any point in the franchise's history.

That might be a good thing considering the Broncos have ranked among the league leaders in stopping the run. All told, they also have done a good job against the pass.

The Steelers have never run less often than they have this season based on play-distribution percentages. They have run only 42.4 percent of the time. If that pace holds, it would be a 40-year low. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has made no bones about wanting to put the ball in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's hands.

Yet despite running it less often, the Steelers average 106.9 yards on the ground per game, up slightly from last season. It would be no surprise if they start running it more often the rest of the season.

They also believe their defense, after delivering a crushing blow to Brett Favre and the Vikings in the fourth quarter of their last game, is on the rise.

"We're getting out there and getting to the point where we're playing to the level we're capable of and making plays when we need them," said linebacker James Harrison, the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for October.

Although the Steelers lost end Aaron Smith for the season, Troy Polamalu returned from an MCL sprain to play in the past two games and is beginning to look like his old self.


* RB Rashard Mendenhall, who played little in the first three games, has taken over the starting halfback job from Willie Parker and has 418 yards and a 5.4-yard per-carry average. He started and rushed for 373 yards in the past four games.

* TE Heath Miller's 40 catches are just two off the team lead. The last tight end to lead the team in receptions was Eric Green in 1993 with 63, a total that still stands as the team record for the position.

* Stefan Logan, kept on the team as a pure return specialist, has averaged only 7.5 yards on 14 punt returns with a long of 20. He has six fair catches.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger has scored two of his team's six rushing touchdowns. Mendenhall has the other four. Roethlisberger has scored more rushing touchdowns only one other season. He had three in 2005.

* LB James Harrison was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for October when he registered seven of his eight sacks. He set the team record with 16 last season.

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