By Daniel Benjamin
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is starting to “feel the heat” as a result of a sputtering offense, according to reports.
Andrew Fillipiano of Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan said that Haley’s days calling plays for the Steelers could be numbered. The big issue with Haley is the team’s failure to get the ball in the end zone. The Steelers have moved the ball well all season, ranking in the top-10 of the league in total yards as well as passing yards, but they tend to get bogged down in the red zone.
Pittsburgh is 15th in the league with 1.6 red zone touchdowns a game, though the Steelers are converting just 42.42% of their chances into touchdowns, which has dropped to 30% over the last three games. Overall, the Steelers’ rank 19th in the league with 20.8 points a game, though they have scored just 18 touchdowns, which includes one special teams score. The Steelers offense has reached the end zone more than twice only once in their 10 games.
Points should not be a problem with veteran Ben Roethlisberger behind center and two of the best players in the league at their respective positions in Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. There are two main explanations for their failures in the red zone: Play calling and penalties.
The Steelers have run approximately 80 red zone plays and they have almost a 50/50 split between run and pass plays. More troubling are the types of pass plays in certain situations in the red zone or the lack of creativity. The Steelers also have been flagged seven times in the red zone, and one of those flags cost them a touchdown.
Haley has been the Steelers’ offensive coordinator since 2012.
Joe Haden to return this season
The Steelers defense was flying around in the first quarter against Indianapolis on Sunday, as they held the Colts to 32 total yards of offense on three offensive drives. But that changed when Haden left the game late in the opening quarter with an apparent leg injury. Indianapolis connected on two 60-yard pass plays that went for touchdowns, including one that occurred on the second play following Haden’s departure.
After the game, it was disclosed that Haden suffered a fractured fibula in his left leg and that he will be out indefinitely. However, there are now reports saying he only has a “slight fracture, won’t need surgery and could return in three weeks.
If the projected timetable is correct, that would mean Haden would be back for the Sunday night game against Baltimore on Dec. 10.
Haden is a major reason that the secondary ranks fifth in defensive efficiency. He is the Steelers top cornerback, meaning he usually draws the opponents’ top receiver. The two-time pro bowler has 16 tackles, one sack and five passes defensed along with one interception on the season. Veteran Coty Sensabaugh, who replaced Haden on Saturday, is slated to start opposite Artie Burns against Tennessee on Thursday.
In other injury related news, the Steelers listed five players on their injury report. The most concerning appears to be wide receiver Martavis Bryant (illness) and tight end Vance McDaonald (ankle), as both players did not practice on Tuesday.
Cam Heyward nominated for Art Rooney Award
Defensive end Cam Heyward has been nominated for the fourth annual Art Rooney Sr. Sportsmanship Award. Each of the league’s 32 teams nominates one player for the award, which goes to the person who personifies sportsmanship through fair play, respect for the game, and integrity in competition.
“There are a lot of good football players in the NFL, but there are a lot of selfish players. Cam is not like that,” said assistant head coach/defensive line coach John Mitchell. “Cam wants to win. He doesn’t care if his number is called or not. What I like about him is when he encourages a player, or corrects a player, he is correcting himself. I have heard him tell players this is what we have to do, but I have to do it just as well as you have to do. That makes the player he is engaging with feel good because they know he isn’t just talking to them, but he is talking to himself too, saying Coach Mitchell wants me to do it better too.”
The award was established in 2014 in honor of the founder of the Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer.