Establishing a foundation is just as important as statistics to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley

Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has a year of experience with the team. They, in turn, have it with him, and that foundation is more powerful than last year's statistical performance.

It'd be difficult to show the Steelers offense was successful top to bottom in 2012.

Finishing 22nd in the NFL in points, and 21st in yards, it doesn't look like an outstanding unit. But looking at the individual pieces that make up the whole, it's easier to see the brilliance of Haley's plans.

Against the pass defense-challenged Jets (playing without cornerback Darrelle Revis) in Week 2, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger worked in efficiency, but took shots down the field, knowing the Mark Sanchez-led Jets offense wouldn't be able to keep up. The Steelers won 27-10 after Pittsburgh ran the ball down New York's collective exhausted throats in the fourth quarter.

The following week, in a 34-31 loss at Oakland, Haley put the game on Roethlisberger's shoulders, having him throw 49 times - the third-highest amount of his career - to shred a hapless Raiders defense. Minus two second half fumbles, the Steelers likely win that game. Regardless of the loss, it was one of the best games of Roethlisberger's career.

In a Week 7 win over Cincinnati, the Steelers ran 29 times for 5.8 yards a carry, coming off a 40-attempt effort from Roethlisberger the previous week. They ran it again against the Redskins in Week 8, dominating Washington to the tune of 5.2 yards per carry. The running game plan hit its peak in a throwback-worthy 35-carry, 158-yard team effort against the Giants.

Haley mixed up his tendencies at a higher level between running and passing, creating what could have been one of the least predictable offenses in the NFL.

Could have been...if not for scores of injuries.

The tune being carried into 2013 sounds a lot like "shoulda, coulda, woulda," but the main thing the opponents of the Steelers should be worried about is the fact the team has had a full year in Haley's offense. They've had the opportunity to establish that internal language that is unique and critical to the success of any group.

"Ideally, you want to give a base foundation for what you potentially could do throughout the year," Haley recently told Steelers.com writer Bob Labriola. "Really, it's from a language standpoint, because we have words to do pretty much anything we want to do. You try to indoctrinate as many of these guys to as many of these words as you can to get it locked in and roll from there. Then you're assuming that when you get to training camp you're not learning it again. That's the biggest thing overall: teaching everybody the words and what it means to each one of them."

Consistency is essential. Instead of learning, they're re-hashing. The team will be familiar with the concepts presented to them, and they'll be able to start at a point much further along the learning curve than last year.

And this wasn't an offense that started poorly last year.

"I think it's an evolution," Haley told Labriola. "There are some changes, but it's an evolution that I think would happen whenever you're in a situation where you're in year two and already have a year under your belt. You naturally know your players better. It's a natural progression/evolution."


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