Study: Breaking Down The Efficiency Of A Todd Haley Offense

Ever since the hiring of Todd Haley in 2012, the Steelers’ offense has undoubtedly evolved.  There has been a much more focused effort on utilizing running backs within a system that holds one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.  And as Big Ben has aged, we’ve seen the play book open wider and wider as he manifested a comfort within the offense (on top of his raw ability). And with a high number of expectations being put on this 2016 squad, I thought it’d be nice to take a look at how this offense had progressed, or regressed in terms of efficiency throughout Haley’s tenure with the ‘Burgh.

So obviously there are a number of things to look at when trying to gauge an offense’s efficiency, but I’ve narrowed them down a few stat lines I find to be most representative. Those stats being: 3rd down conversions, red zone efficiency, time of possession, and total points scored.

3rd down conversions

This is the one statistic of the group that saw a variety of change over the past 4 seasons. Here’s a breakdown.

Year 3rd Down % League Rank
2015 40% 17th
2014 45% 5th
2013 38% 14th
2012 42% 10th

This has definitely been a focus of the Steelers for a number of years.  You will often hear Haley and Tomlin mention 3rd downs as being crucial elements to their offense.  Now I’m sure we’ll have a bunch of people saying, “Well maybe it would have been a higher percentage if they actually ran the ball on 3rd and short instead of airing it out.”  And you know what?  You may be right. 

But keep that in mind every time you cheer on the offense when they turn a 3rd and 1 into a 40 yard play.  And still, through all the injuries and inconsistency of personnel at times, they’ve still remained in the top half of the league and can likely get back into the top 10 next year.

Time of Possession

This one was a little more tricky considering that one does not have to necessarily possess the ball longer to be deemed efficient.  If a team scores within the first set of downs on every drive, more power to them!  Hell, I’d say they may be the most efficient team of all time. However we know, typically, that teams want their offense on the field rather than the defense (unless you’re the 2002 Buccaneers or the 2000 Ravens, but I digress).

Statistics for time of possession usually focus on minutes per game, so that’s what is being provided here.  Ironically enough, time of possession has actually decreased throughout Haley’s time in Pittsburgh (minus the 2014 season). In 2012, the Steelers out possessed their opponent by nearly 5 minutes.  In 2013, they had the ball just over 30 minutes per game.  2014 was their highest margin of possession where they recorded roughly 33 minutes per game.  Last year proved to be a low point in the 4 year range, as they Steelers had the ball for around 29 minutes per game.

Certainly last year proved to be one of constant adversity.  The offense at times appeared to struggle with chemistry, mainly with the absence of Ben Roethlisberger.  Overall, though, Haley’s Steelers have done a good job of keeping the ball in their hands and out of the opponent’s.  Even though the margins may appear small, one minute can make a big difference.  With the majority of the pieces coming back together in this offense, I’d say it’s safe to assume they will be back to tiring defenses out in 2016.

Red Zone Efficiency

These statistics may actually be some of the hardest to find.  But the website has been publishing in-depth statistics like these for quite some time, and I have found them to be reliable methods.  I will be referencing their statistics when it comes to red zone efficiency, primarily addressing points scored per red zone trip and also percentage of red zone trips resulting in touchdowns.

Year Points Per RZ Trip TD %
2015 5.27 60.7%
2014 4.56 52.7%
2013 4.89 52.8%
2012 4.96 55.1%

And we all know their wildly successful attempts on 2-point conversions.  The red zone is another point of emphasis for Haley; that’s why the team practices this almost religiously.  If they can maintain this momentum, 2016 should be a year full of points.

Total Points

And now to the most consistently increasing category! Every single year since Haley came to town, the Steelers have scored more points than the previous season.  And they’ve climbed the ladder to becoming the most lethal threat to defenses across the league.

Year Total Points League Rank
2015 423 T-4th
2014 436 7th
2013 379 16th
2012 336 22nd

Hopefully that dial keeps moving up and up.

Looking at all of these, it’s clear there are some areas for improvement.  But it also shows that, by and large, this team is moving in the right direction.  Consider one final point: Pittsburgh scored on over 40% of their drives last year trailing only to the: Cardinals, Seahawks, Panthers, and Patriots.

I think we can all agree that’s some good company there.  And scoring that often always puts your team in a better position throughout the game.  By those numbers alone, the Steelers should beat nearly every opponent they play based on the sheer probability of them scoring more often. But as we all know, there’s much more to the equation than just one stat line, and we’ve seen how injuries can throw much of that out the window. So this analysis is far from binding.

But after seeing some of these thing, let’s hope that the 3rd down conversions become more and more likely and maybe this team can become the league’s leading scorer by the end of 2016.  For now, I’ll trust the process with Haley at the helm.

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