In the final four weeks of the 2012 National Football League season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have three of their final four games at home. The three home game opponents are a combined 7-11 on the road with Cincinnati being a surprising 4-2 away from ‘Heinz Field West.’
One stat which I know I cringe at every time I see it is that this week’s opponent San Diego, is 0-14 during the regular season in Pittsburgh. I hate seeing numbers like that because at some point something has to give. I just hope it isn’t this week.
There is however, one stat that screams for the Todd Haley offense to find another level and that’s ‘points against.’ The next four opponents, despite two being in the top ten in total defense are giving up a lot of points per game.
- San Diego 21.2
- Dallas 22.7
- Cincinnati 25.7
- Cleveland 23.4
Obviously, the Haley offense has been a work in progress especially with all of the injuries to the offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, but now that Charlie Batch is entering week three as a starter (potentially), there are no more excuses.
Haley was brought in to replace Bruce Arians for two, well, maybe three major reasons. The first was to improve this team in the red zone and for the most part, he has done that with some room for improvement still. Secondly, the team had too many weapons to just average 20 points per game as they did under Arians and Haley is barely eclipsing that with 21.2 points per game.
The third reason, depending on who you talk to, was improving running game. Perhaps not just improving it, but returning it to its’ glory days of ground and pound. The running game has been as erratic as a Dick Cheney shotgun this season, but it has been pretty clear to me, the emphasis on the run has returned.
Don’t get me wrong, you still need to run the ball effectively in the NFL today but this is clearly a league that dominates with the passing game. With all the weapons at his disposal, I’m disappointed the offense has still relied so heavily on the run.
Over the next four weeks, Haley’s offense has no excuses regardless of who is playing quarterback. The defense is playing well and the offense is healthy for the most part so it’s time to score points. Obviously, Haley can’t be blamed for Emmanuel Sanders fumbling the ball away when he seemed destined for a sure touchdown. He can’t be blamed for Charlie Batch throwing a ball so far over Mike Wallace in the end zone that a sound man is still picking it out of his ear. That’s potentially 14 points that were left on the field and they came on plays Haley set up perfectly.
That brings us back to a question that has haunted the Steelers’ offense for years and that’s about ‘execution vs play-calling.’ There are plenty of examples on both sides for finger-pointing to ensue but at the end of the day, it comes back to coaches. NFL coaches and assistants are ultimately hired and fired because they get their players in the right or wrong positions on the field. Haley has been able to do this positively but now must do it more often and get more from the players as well.
The final four games are all ‘must-wins’ in my mind because you should never rely on other teams for help. The Steelers can help themselves by executing on offense and taking advantage of their match-up advantages against the Chargers, Cowboys, Bengals and Browns. While the players bear great responsibility for that, it ultimately comes down to Todd Haley and the time is now.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.