By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH -- Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said he's an aggressive guy by nature, so he'll go for two points when the Pittsburgh Steelers get the chance.
But will the Steelers score enough touchdowns to provide those opportunities?
"We need to do a better job in the red area,'' Haley said Wednesday. "To me, the red area, not statistically speaking, where the league counts it from the 20. When we get inside that 35, we can't give points away, whether it's three points or seven.''
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger believed the Steelers offense needed to improve on third down, as well as in the red zone.
"And we want to score more points,'' Roethlisberger added. "(But) there are a lot of areas. From me calling better plays to us executing better, to understand that everything happens faster. Receivers have to know that the ball is coming out faster.''
The overriding factor, according to Haley, was that the Steelers had too many possessions that ended with the club scoring no points.
"Whether we had an ill-timed sack that took us out of field-goal range and didn't allow us to kick the ball or a couple turnovers down there,'' Haley said. "So, really, when we get inside that 35, we need to get points. Whether it's three or seven, and those add up quick.''
The Steelers still finished among the league leaders in scoring and red-zone efficiency, while Roethlisberger ranked among the quickest at releasing his passes. However, Haley conducted a study that apparently didn't last all year.
"We cost ourselves 30, 35 points about halfway through the year,'' Haley said. "And you add those on to what was a pretty good total of points, which is the name of the game, (And) we probably would have been feeling even better about what we did.''
Haley also believed the Steelers could run the football more consistently and efficiently. Sure, there were a lot of big plays from that part of their game, but the Steelers also had too many negative plays that set back the offense. So, improvements in the red zone and running game could make the Steelers explosive offense even more dynamic.
"I hope so,'' Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, guys had some amazing individual seasons last year, and we had a really good season on offense in general. But there are always areas we can improve in and get better.''
Continued good health on the offensive line should be beneficial as well.
"We have a lot of guys now on the same page,'' Haley said. "They understand the protections in the run game, and that keeps guys out of bad spots. ... We had less guys on the ground, running into each other, and it's some of those things that cause accidents that you don't want. Anytime you can keep those guys up front healthy and the continuity, it's a good thing.''
That helps Roethlisberger stay upright more than he had been in the past, and it also allows him to dictate when he's going to release the football.
"(Ben) made good decisions and got the ball out quick, which led to positive plays,'' Haley said. "At the same time, one of the best things he does is keep a play alive and make a big play. And last year, he picked his spots. He knows he can't do that every play, but he's the best in the world at that.''
While Le'Veon Bell won't be as productive overall, since he'll miss up to three suspended games, Haley believed he's ahead now from where he was at this time last year. And Bell should be more comfortable with the Steelers offense. With DeAngelo Williams joining the mix, along with youngsters Dri Archer and Josh Harris having another year under their belts, the Steelers running game should be better overall.
"They look a lot more comfortable than they did a year ago,'' Haley said. "They know how we practice and what we expect from them, and they have so much more experience even though they didn't play a bunch of snaps. So, they're way ahead of the game and will be much better when we get to training camp.''
Haley also commented on No. 3 quarterback Landry Jones, who got a chance to back up Roethlisberger this week with second-teamer Bruce Gradkowski missing some time.
"Landry has been a little up and down, but he's working hard,'' Haley said. "It's a tough spot to be in, being the third guy. He's been thrust into getting a little more reps with Bruce being out, so he has to take advantage of that opportunity.''
Notes: The Steelers have one more OTA practice, Thursday, and then finish spring workouts with mandatory mini-camp next Tuesday through Thursday. Practice times have not yet been released.