The Steelers never envisioned they would have a dominant running game this season without Rashard Mendenhall. They did, however, think the combination of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer would keep defenses honest.
After three games, the Steelers' running game ranks among the worst in the NFL despite new offensive coordinator Todd Haley emphasizing it all offseason. Pittsburgh has gained 195 yards on the ground as a team and has been out-gained by 17 running backs, including the Ravens' Ray Rice (268) and the Bengals' BenJarvus Green-Ellis (204). The most disturbing part is the Steelers managed 54 yards rushing against an Oakland defense that allowed 263 yards only seven days earlier.
Who's to blame for the lack of production in the running game? Some point to the reshuffled offensive line. But this is essentially the same group (outside of left guard Willie Colon) who blocked for the 14th-ranked rushing attack last season. Others think it's Haley's scheme. He is the same coordinator who put together the league's top running game in 2010.
The biggest problem is Redman and Dwyer. I'm not blaming them. This is the fault of the Steelers' decision-makers who chose not to add an experienced running back this offseason (the team's salary cap also played a factor in this) and went with two backs who have never had to carry the load for more than one game. It's clear the Steelers can't make this same mistake next season. With Mendenhall being a free agent at the end of the season, Pittsburgh has to upgrade at the running back spot.
STAT THAT STICKS: 19 -- Straight games that the Steelers had won when leading by 10 or more points after three quarters. That streak is now over.
OVERHEARD: "I wasn't going to punt the football to them. We hadn't stopped them enough in the second half to do that." Coach Mike Tomlin in explaining why he went on fourth-and-one from the Steelers' 29 in the fourth quarter.
WHAT'S AHEAD: The Steelers will try to heal up in an awfully early bye week. It would be a beneficial off week if linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu can come back from injuries. After starting the season with two trips out west in the first three weeks, Pittsburgh only has to leave its time zone twice for the rest of the season and those are games at Tennessee and Dallas.