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.