During a recent interview, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley talked about how he learned from Bill Parcells the value of running the football 25 or more times a game, as it usually results in a team winning eight out of 10 games if that goal is achieved. While that sounds good in theory, we all know that teams just can run for the sake of running in order to achieve that number as so many factors play into that. Haley even acknowledged that in the interview.
“A lot of that is skewed because you are winning the game and you hand it off in the fourth quarter,” said Haley. “If you can get to that number early in the game, you are probably playing pretty good football. Turnovers can change everything.”
As Haley points out, having a lead in the fourth quarter plays a huge part in hitting that magic number and that’s something the Steelers offense has had problems achieving in Haley’s first two years in Pittsburgh.
In fact, in the 32 games that Haley has coached so far with the Steelers, the team has only had a lead of three points or more at any point in the fourth quarter in 18 of those games of which they won 15 of them. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that Haley achieved the magic number of 25 rushes in all 15 of those games.
While those 15 wins are certainly something to be proud of, the magic number of 25 or more runs that were achieved in those games certainly needs to be improved upon from a yards per carry standpoint. According to Pro Football Reference, those 122 fourth quarter runs that took place with a three point or more lead only produced a 2.84 yards per carry average. Now, 13 of those were kneel downs for a loss of 18 yards, so if you remove those, you’re still left with a dismal 3.02 yards per carry average.
So, just how important is it to make sure that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a lead of three points or more heading into the fourth quarter? In the 80 games that he has started and entered the fourth quarter with a lead of three points or more during his career, the Steelers won 73 (91.3%) of those games.
Ready for me to tie a bow around this? In those 73 wins, the Steelers ran the bal 25 or more times in all but four of them. In the seven losses, they failed to run the ball 25 or more times in four of them.
Yes, the Steelers have to run the ball better in all situations in 2014, but don’t expect Haley to get out of balance with his run/pass ratio even if that goal is achieved. The goal is to score points in order to enter the fourth quarter with the lead and to do that, the team is certainly going to need Roethlisberger to do what he does best and that’s throw the football. More on that in a future post.