The two largest losses in terms of points differential last season for the Pittsburgh Steelers came against the Chicago Bears (17 points) and the New England Patriots (24 points). In those two games, the offense committed the most turnovers of any games they played in 2013, totaling 8 turnovers throughout both games.
When looking at the Steelers' 2013 season, turnovers from the offense coincided with the worst parts of their season. In the first four games of the season the Steelers committed 11 turnovers on offense which led to an 0-4 record. In the eight total losses in 2013, Pittsburgh surrendered 17 turnovers and in only their last two losses of those eight did they not surrender multiple turnovers in those games.
It's no coaching secret that limiting turnovers on the offensive side of the ball is a key to success, and how to control that factor is not lost upon Todd Haley. He credits the 6-2 turnaround for the Steelers a lot to the increased ball security and the decreased amount of turnovers.
"The turnovers stopped. That's really when we started playing better football," Haley said. "The second half of the season, we did a lot of good things, as we worked our way through adversity when you couldn't see much light at the end of the tunnel. I think a lot of good came out of that. I think a lot of the guys that were here and are still here, feel that and know what we have to accomplish. We are all interested in building off of that finish."
So yeah, the offense needs to not to the turn the ball over to the other team. But what does Haley see as the difference maker in helping that happen? An increased focus? Some higher-level of urgency?
The Steelers 3rd-year offensive coordinator sees the running game and the prospect of a stronger offensive line as the key.
"We have to run the football better, which we started to do in the second half of the season," Haley said. "When you can throw it as well as we did with the run game not exactly where we wanted it (in the first half of 2013) that tells you that you have a chance to be good. When you are running the football it makes throwing it a heck of a lot easier. Running is a big part of what we have to do here going forward successfully."
Statistically there is merit to that statement in the turnaround of the Steelers' season last year. The Steelers only eclipsed 100 yards on the ground six times in 2013; four of those six times came in the second half of the season in their 6-2 run. Of those six total games they went 5-1 (only loss was to the New England Patriots).
From the team's top three running backs, Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones, the running game only surrendered two fumbles. With Le'backfield having a more experienced Le'Veon Bell, an upgrade from Dwyer with LeGarrette Blount, and the prospect of a stronger offensive line, there's promise in Haley's solution to last year's turnover woes being a key to this year's offensive success.