The Pittsburgh Steelers finished dead last in the NFL in rushing in 2020, producing a mere 1,351 yards on the ground.
“We don’t want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers last in the league in rushing ever again,” said team president Art Rooney II during a Steelers Nation Unite fan forum in March.
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That’s why the team has made significant changes—both in terms of personnel, coaching and scheme—in an effort to produce dramatic improvement.
James Conner Out, Najee Harris In
Most notably, the Steelers allowed starting tailback James Conner to leave via free agency and replaced him with first-round draft pick Najee Harris. The organization also spent two 2021 draft picks on offensive linemen, selecting left tackle prospect Dan Moore Jr. (Texas A&M) and guard/center Kendrick Green (Illinois), the latter of whom has described himself as the “nastiest player” in the draft.
Shaun Sarrett Out, Adrian Klemm Promoted
At the same time the Steelers changed offensive coordinators (replacing Randy Fichtner with Matt Canada), while also jettisoning Shaun Sarrett and promoting assistant offensive line coach Adrian Klemm to offensive line coach.
Klemm is charged with remaking an offensive line that lost perennial Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey to retirement and both Alejandro Villanueva (Baltimore Ravens) and Matt Feiler (Los Angeles Chargers) to free agency, despite hoping to keep Feiler in the fold.
According to second-year offensive guard Kevin Dotson, Klemm is already starting to put his stamp on the team’s offensive line in the form of greater intensity.
‘Run Through His Face,’ Says Klemm
“There is more aggression even the way we come off the blocks,” Dotson explained on Wednesday during a Zoom interview posted to Steelers.com. “Even the verbiage he uses in meetings is way more aggressive. Not just saying ‘get the blocks,’ but ‘run through his face.’ He is using more aggressive terms and I feel like that pushes our mindset in that way.”
That suits Dotson just fine.
“I want to be more of that aggressive guy. I am kind of aggressive already,” he added. “I want to be that guy that they just know he is going to do extra; you better make sure you are ready for this game type of guy for the defensive line. I am trying to improve upon that. I want to be conditioned enough to be able to go the whole game, going 100 percent.”
Meanwhile, Dotson expects that Klemm will also have his linemen—all of them—in a three-point stance much more frequently.
“He has emphasized [three-point stances] more, definitely for the tackles,” said Dotson, so everyone can “come off the ball a little more.”
That should help the Steelers line play a more physical style in 2021, as will running the ball more frequently in 2021.
That ought to help complement the other changes in personnel, which include the additions of free agent guard/tackle Joe Haeg and the return of guard/center B.J. Finney, who is back after a year away in Seattle/Cincinnati.
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