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Steelers Todd Haley Talks Four-Down Mode Communication, Rushing Number Targets


During a recent interview with Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley talked about the importance of him knowing from head coach Mike Tomlin before a drive starts whether or not he would have the luxury of going for it on fourth down.

“As a play caller, when I was in Arizona with (Ken Whisenhunt), he would tell me on third down to have a fourth down call ready and I would think ‘Boy, if I would’ve known that two calls ago it would’ve changed everything,’” said Haley.

“We have messed with it here a little bit with four-down mode. It doesn’t happen in obvious places. It might be on your own 30 when you say we have four downs to get the first so to me it changes drastically because you can hand it off three times in a row knowing that you will have that extra down.”

Haley went on to talk about his 2010 season as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and how he would let his offensive coordinator Charlie Weis know ahead of time that they were in four-down mode and what he expected to be called whenever that happened.

“I had a rule and I told Charlie that when I tell him we are in four-down mode, I want three handoffs in a row no matter what unless on first down we got 7 yards and second down we would get 2 and knowing that you had a fourth down to hand it off to get the first, that shot against a more predictable defense came into play,” Haley said.

“It’s third-and-1 and we are trying to get the ball down the field for a huge play knowing that we are probably going to get man-to-man. It drastically changed the thinking.”

Haley also went on to say that when Tomlin gives him the go ahead to be in four-down mode that he’s also sure to let the defense coordinator Dick LeBeau know about as well so that nobody is surprised.

“I went through the whole thing with him [Tomlin] and we have done it some,” he said. “You really have to have your whole team on board. I’d tell the defensive coordinator that we are in four-down mode so they would know. We might’ve been on our own 35 and we are taking a risk so our defense better be ready to come out and shut them down.”

In addition to four-down situations, Haley also revealed to Kaboly what he learned from Bill Parcells when it comes to running the football as it relates to those situations.

(Bill) Parcells always taught if you hand off the ball 25 or more times and for years and year and years, it’s like you are going to win eight out of 10 games. In the first half, I am always like how many runs, where are we at,” said Haley.

“A lot of that is skewed because you are winning the game and you hand it off in the fourth quarter. If you can get to that number early in the game, you are probably playing pretty good football. Turnovers can change everything. That four-down mode allowed me to call three runs in a row, four runs in a row and stay in four down mode and now you might’ve handed it off seven or eight times in a row and those add up.”

As far as that 25 or more rushing number goes, the Steelers hit it in eight games in 2013 and they won all eight of those games. They also lost the eight games that they failed to hit that number. In the two years that Haley has been in Pittsburgh, the Steelers are 16-3 in games that they rushed 25 or more times and 0-13 in the games that they have failed to hit that number.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Aric Brown

    For whom the Bell tolls

  • steeltown

    It’s pretty clear how significant a solid running game can be

  • Axe Skot

    Wow, I’m a Steelers fan so by default a fan of the ground game, but 25 rushes…Talk about your important statistics.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Well at least we know what number we need to get to as an offense. 25 carries. With Bell and Blount here combined with Pouncey and DeCastro actually being on the field at the same time, I see no reason we can’t run the ball 25 times per game.

    Just a question to further divide the stats above. 16-3 in wins. Can you sort of break those down for us to show success while running the ball? For instance, maybe we averaged 4.5 YPC in wins and only 2.5 in losses. Same on the 0-13 side. What kind of YPC numbers were we looking at? I would also love to know how many times Ben through over 30 times in a game for the wins and losses.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Quite telling! And it comes as no surprise to me, as it’s always been this way, despite the explosion of passing games.

  • steeltown

    Yea I bet the majority of the losses we were playing from behind, in turn throwing more and running far less.

    For example, the New England game last season Bell had a 4.6yds per avg and we had a 5.4 Team avg on 20 total carries, but we were getting smoked in that game and Ben ended up throwing 48 passes.

  • falconsaftey43

    yeah stats like those show that the 25 rushes number can have a lot more to do with running because you were winning rather than winning because you were running.

  • cencalsteeler

    Dave has a point that those stats are skewed. One thing I’d like to see is Haley flip flop his philosophy. Let’s start the game in no huddle. Let’s get the trick plays going right out of the shoot. Let’s put up two quick scores and then start focusing on pounding the ball. It seems we always start out the game with consecutive runs (like he states in his interview) and end up with three and outs (This approach seems very archaic, imo). It deflates the crowd, the team, and boosts the confidence of our opponents. Let’s come out firing on all cylinders out of the gate, establish the lead and then the run game will take care of itself in the latter stages.

  • Rupert

    Interesting article and that last stat is mind boggling even if there are anomalies and other circumstances to skew the stat. Our task is not to run more but to run more efficiently in 2014. We need to get those 5-6 yards on first down to start a drive. We have historically sucked at running on first down on a drive, IMO.

  • AndyR34

    If it were as easy as you make it sound, I’m certain that the Steelers…and every other team…would do it that way. It only works in Madden.

  • Michelob

    There’s only three things that can happen when you throw the ball and two of them are bad! We’re gonna run the ball Run The Ball RUN THE BALL!! – My High School Football Coach

  • cencalsteeler

    Actually, I think the Packers, Pats, Saints and now the Broncos with Peyton have that philosophy.

  • Ike Evans

    Dear God,
    Please let our offensive line block for Le’Backfield (and dri) this year just as well as they blocked at the end of last year or even better. And I promise I will stop throwing stuff at Ravens fans and yelling expletives at them every time we cross paths. In your name we pray. Amen

  • Matt Manzo

    I think you’ll see Haley be way more aggressive this year! He’s got more weapons and more trust in Ben, and Munchak!
    Last year I think he thought Felix Jones would gain more than 2 yards.

  • cencalsteeler

    I agree Matt. Haley didn’t have much to work with since his hiring. I’ll bet money he is the biggest fan of the Munchak hiring.

  • Aric Brown

    Lol @ LeBackfield

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