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With or without Le’Veon Bell, run game still concerns Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

October 3, 2018

Mike Tomlin has not spoken to Le’Veon Bell and he’s not waiting until after Week 6 - when the star running back reportedly will return to the Pittsburgh Steelers - to fix his team’s issues running the ball.

The Steelers rank No. 28 in the NFL in rushing and are coming off a 26-14 loss to Baltimore in which they totaled 19 yards on 11 attempts.

Tomlin held a “state of the union” review with his players Monday to remedy problems that have cropped up offensively and defensively during the Steelers’ 1-2-1 start to the season.

Regarding the running game, Tomlin said the Steelers not only need to run the ball more frequently, but they also need to do it more effectively, starting Sunday when they play the Atlanta Falcons.

“Some of it, we need more reps at it,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “How do you get more reps at it? You get more possession downs. You win possession downs. We didn’t do that in the last game. ... There are reasons why the raw number isn’t where it (should be). A lot of times it’s how games unfold. We have to be better there. We’ve had some penalties and that can make you one-dimensional.

“When you look at the runs we have run, we are capable of running it better. We need a little more detail with perimeter blocking and so forth, and we are going to continue to work in those areas. Usually if you put yourself in position to snap it more, some of those things get better with reps. We have to stay in games, start faster, we have to minimize penalties. ... That will provide more opportunities, and we’ll find our rhythm in run game.”

Tomlin said he continues to have confidence in second-year back James Conner, who has started in Bell’s absence. Conner has 97 yards rushing on 32 carries in the past three games.

“I like what James has given us, particularly in the passing game,” Tomlin said. “He’s been really consistent in that area.”

As for Bell’s impending return during the team’s bye in two weeks, Tomlin is reserving judgment.

“Like I’ve said repeatedly, it’s the best approach for us to stay focused on the guys that are here and working, and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said. “Nothing has changed from my perspective in that regards.”

The Steelers made one roster move Tuesday, placing veteran safety/special teams player Nat Berhe on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. Second-year cornerback Brian Allen was promoted from the practice squad.

The secondary could welcome back strong safety Morgan Burnett (groin) and slot cornerback Mike Hilton (elbow). Tomlin said both players will practice this week. Burnett has missed the past two games and Hilton one.

Linebacker Vince Williams (hamstring) and wide receiver/special teams player Darrius Heyward-Bey (ankle) will be monitored during the week.

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