It is often said that defense and running the ball wins championships. This season was no different; great defense and a commitment to running the ball won both the AFC and NFC Championship games and will win the Super Bowl. Here's a look at how both teams run the ball and what the defenses should do to stop those effective running games.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have an excellent running game because they have a mind-set that they are going to run the ball no matter what. That has been the Steelers' game plan since before I played for the team, and it remains. Even if the Steelers are stopped three or four times in a row by the opposing defense, they will keep pounding the ball. This isn't a team that needs to break a big run every so often during the course of a game to decide to keep running. The Steelers are quite content with just hitting the opposing defense and getting a few yards at a time, knowing they will own the fourth quarter because the opposition will be worn down.
They have an enormous amount of balance and aren't afraid to run the ball on the strong- or weak-side, as well as running it up the middle. They are also successful running the ball because they've incorporated runs to take advantage of the strengths of their personnel. Although they have Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis running some of the same routes up the gut of the defense, they've also incorporated some runs to get Parker to the perimeter, taking advantage of his speed.