The Indianapolis Colts are not going to be the most dynamic team on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ schedule this year, on either side of the ball. They’re not going to be the best at any one aspect of the game. But they do have one player who, if they allow to get going, can wreck the game. That would be third-year running back Jonathan Taylor, against whom cornerback Levi Wallace has some experience.
“I played him a couple of times already”, he said, via Teresa Varley for the team’s website. “Great running back. Has incredible speed once he gets to the second level. And he has real good balance too. He’s first and foremost who we have to stop. He is active out of the backfield too. Definitely a tough player to go against”.
Taylor had an astounding season a year ago, recording a league-leading 1811 rushing yards on 322 attempts with 18 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He added another 360 yards through the air and two more scores to put him over 2000 yards from scrimmage with 20 touchdowns.
The 2022 season hasn’t been quite as magical, at least not as consistently, but he has remained a force to be reckoned with. Through eight games played, he has rushed for 693 yards on 151 attempts, averaging 4.6 yards per carry with three touchdowns.
He has been nicked up a bit this year, missing three games thus far, but he had recorded 44 carries in the past two weeks for a combined 231 yards and two touchdowns. It would seem that interim head coach Jeff Saturday is making a more concerted effort to establish him as a focal point of the offense.
The Steelers’ run defense has waxed and waned over the course of the year, but they have been solid overall. Through 11 weeks, they rank seventh in rushing yards allowed and fifth in yards per carry—rankings that are a far cry from where they were a year ago.
The last two games in particular have been notable. They allowed just 29 rushing yards against the New Orleans Saints the week before last, and the Cincinnati Bengals only managed 62 yards—granted, in a victory. The combined 91 yards they have allowed on the ground in the past two games is the fewest for the Steelers in a two-game stretch since 2010.
Of course, they can’t just stop the run. They need to get their own ground game going, and there have been strides made in recent weeks to that effect. Running back Najee Harris has rushed for 189 yards on 40 carries with two touchdowns over the past two weeks. Those numbers might not scream out at you in a vacuum, but relatively speaking, they are certainly encouraging.