Digging Deeper Into Todd Haley’s Magic Rushes Per Game Number

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.

  • steeltown

    I just hope to not see a sloppy predictable Offense, like the first half of last season. The Pouncey, Miller, Bell and Spaeth injuries really took their toll and limited some things early on.. but Ben ended up having a pretty good year and the Offense as a whole played well down the stretch with everyone healthy. Lets hope that carries over.

  • Geoff Cordner

    Makes sense! more importantly, the ability to run the ball when the opponent knows you are going to run the ball and STILL be successful! How do the Steelers accomplish that?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I think that when you’re winning you run to keep the lead and when you’re losing you pass to catch up.

    I take this to mean that the number of runs is the result of winning instead of the other way around.

  • johnhoien

    Cool stats Dave.. I remember last year we kept deferring the coin toss and electing to kick.. Seemed like the D would get destroyed every time we did that.. And then we we playing from behind.. Does anyone know why he would do that? Did he really feel our O team was not as good as the D? CoAch Tomlin probably saw something .. But I was puzzled by it..

  • patrick Mayfield

    This is exactly it. Either you’re running to eat up the clock or you’re able to establish the run which generally bodes well for running the game. It’s a pretty useless stat. Kind of irks me that this is the kind of thing floating around Haley’s head.

  • steeltown

    Probably just prefer to get the ball at halftime

  • cencalsteeler

    Establish an early lead, then wear them out with the ground and pound.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Excellent article. In these “dead days of summer” I like taking a deeper look into Steeler stats from past seasons. I appreciate the analysis. Well done, sir.

  • cencalsteeler

    I think coach T was probably trying to get his D to set the tone. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case these last few years.

  • Rupert

    Chicken or the egg…great stuff! I still believe that IF we can get 5 to 6 yards running on first down then everything will open up. I would love to see analytics on our YPC on first down. In particular, the first down on a drive. Come on Dave, can you run that down? lol 🙂


    When you can run might be just as important…if you can get a yard when the DEF knows you’re going to run it…deflating to a DEF, big plays will eventually come…if they can get 3+ on 1st down inside the 30…the DEF has to respect any handoff fake…RZ OFC will be much better.

  • Lil Smitty

    If the defense is playing the run so intense that they are allowing you to pass, then pass the ball. The modern NFL doesn’t care if you pile on the points, and everyone will think our offense will be elite.

  • treeher

    I don’t have the stats, but I think the worst down for the Steelers is 2nd down. It seems that every time they get decent yardage on 1st down, their next play is horrible and they put themselves in tough 3rd down situations.

  • Dan

    Plus you can then choose which endzone to defend for the 1st and 4th qtr. Sometimes that can help.

  • Dan

    Obviously it’s good to be able to run the ball. And it’s good to be able to pass the ball too. You gotta do what works. If they both work, then you’re set. If neither work, then you’re screwed. Effective running has advantages of chewing up clock and making linemen happy, but the bottom line is you gotta get first downs or else you’re sitting on the sidelines talking about what to do next time.

  • chris ward

    Amazing stat on Ben going into the 4th quarter with the lead, winning 73 out of 80 is impressive.