The Pittsburgh Steelers offense hasn\'t been balanced so far this year, but they have possessed the ball, converted third downs, and scored in the red zone, three things that are very important to offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
"The number one thing is winning, Haley said on Thursday. You’ve got to win the game. Number two, you’ve got to convert third downs, you’ve got to score in the red zone and you’d like to possess the ball. We did it in the last three games. We possessed the ball better than anybody in the league. It didn’t translate to wins. If you’re winning the time of possession in games, and then executing in the other areas, you should have a very good chance of winning because you’re keeping your defense off the field."
Heading into the game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, the offense leads the league in time of possession with a 35:59 mark. Their 56.25% conversion rate on third downs is also tops in the league and their 63.64% red zone conversion rate has them currently tied for 7th overall.
The offense has been able to accomplish this despite having a league worst 2.64 yards per carry average in the running game. Thanks to that futility there has been no run versus pass balance and the offense has been forced to pass 64% of the time. Haley was asked on Thursday about the importance of being balanced.
"I don’t care if we throw it 50 times and run it 10 times, if we have the ball for 35 or 36 minutes, it’s the same difference," said Haley. "Now, if you’re throwing it 50 and you have the ball 20 minutes, unless you’re scoring 50 points it’s going to be a little tougher for you. The name of the game is winning. If you can win that time of possession consistently, I think you’re doing your entire team a favor."
The Steelers hope to get the running game kick started on Sunday as Rashard Mendenhall is on course to make his season debut. Any help that he can offer should make the offense even more dangerous as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been carrying it thus far with his ability to convert third and long situations. Those situations, however, call for him to hold the ball a bit longer, which sometimes results in him getting sacked or hit.
Will the return of Mendenhall help the offense achieve more balance? Haley didn\'t answer that specifically when asked on Thursday.
"He is another difference maker, if he is at full speed," said Haley. "He’s been a very good back in this league. If he is able to get back to that level and keep improving like everyone else, then you have another difference maker on the field."