Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers are winless to start the season, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Thursday he liked the improvements the offense made on first downs in the Sunday night loss to the Chicago Bears.
"What we did positive in that game to me that far outweighed everything was first down," said Haley. "In the first two games, first down was a major issue. We weren't efficient running it, throwing it, whether we were in no-huddle, whatever we were trying; we were inefficient on first down. It put us in tough situations throughout each series, and it had negative effects.
"We continued to stress it, put a focus on it with the guys, and I thought they really took to heart what we were talking about, and we ended up with 31 first downs; we averaged 7.9 a play on first down. That's winning football. That's why were all pretty clear on why we're not winning is because of turnovers.
"So if we can win on first down and protect the football, I think we'll have results that we are a little more excited about."
Haley certainly isn't fibbing when talks about the improvements the team made on first down Sunday night. In the opener against the Tennessee Titans, the Steelers offense averaged a mere 4.35 yards per play and only 5.17 yards per play the following week against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sunday in London, the Steelers will play a Minnesota Vikings team that has a 5.71 yards per play allowed average through their first three games of the 2013 season, so there's a target number for them to exceed at Wembley Stadium.
However, as Haley also pointed out, turnovers is what really hurt the team against the Bears Sunday night. While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was responsible for four of the five the team had in the game, Haley doesn't believe his signal caller is pressing.
"No, I really don't and we've talked about it as a staff, and talked to him and really tried to look at it, and it does not appear that anything is happening because he's trying to do too much," he said.