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Steelers' Haley wants better execution from offense

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Titans' Jason McCourty defends on a fourth-quarter pass intended for the Steelers' Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Steady decline

Steelers' Game 1 offensive yardage under coach Mike Tomlin:

2007: 365 yards

2008: 305 yards

2009: 357 yards

2010: 354 yards

2011: 312 yards

2012: 284 yards

2013: 195 yards

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Alan Robinson
Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 11:39 p.m.
 

Todd Haley called it “the worst-case scenario.”

Maurkice Pouncey goes down after eight plays. LaRod Stephens-Howling follows.

The receivers can't hold onto potential game-changing passes early on.

The running game goes backward as much as forward.

Sometimes, as the Steelers' offensive coordinator said Thursday, a coach labors on a game plan for “120 hours a week” and everything works. Sometimes, the same amount of time is spent and nothing works, such as during the Steelers' 16-9 loss Sunday to Tennessee.

So what needs to change in the Steelers' offense Monday night in Cincinnati? According to Haley, just about everything.

“We're challenging everybody,” Haley said. “Nobody played the way we needed to play or the way we can play and expect to play.”

What needs to get fixed first — and fast — is a running game that managed only 32 yards and constantly put the Steelers into poor down-and-distance situations.

The challenge is doing that with the best run blocker (Pouncey) and top running back (Le'Veon Bell) hurt.

Coach Mike Tomlin promised earlier this week the Steelers are staying with the run. Haley said they would, too — but he's not promising how many times Felix Jones or Isaac Redman or Jonathan Dwyer will get the ball. Jones practiced extensively with the regulars Thursday.

The Steelers also want to re-install emergency center Kelvin Beachum as a blocking tight end, hopefully as early as Monday if newly signed center Fernando Velasco can learn the offense by then.

“Our coaches are working with him night and day,” Haley said.

It's not the rushing yardage total that matters, Haley said, but how many yards are gained in critical situations.

“You have to be able to run the ball efficiently, meaning that in situations you have to run, you're able to run,” Haley said. “I don't care if we throw it 45 times and run it 10 and win, or vice versa.”

It was a lost weekend all the way around for Haley, who is living in a South Hills hotel with his wife and five children while their house is being finished.

According to Deadspin.com, he signed an autograph there last weekend that contained a derogatory comment about the Chiefs, the team he coached from 2008-10.

Haley denied he later got into a disagreement with the fan or his friend.

“The guy said, ‘I'm a huge Steelers fan.' So I signed it ‘Go Steelers,' “ Haley said. “Then he said, ‘No, not really, I'm a Chiefs fan.' So I wrote what I did in jest. It was funny. It was no disrespect to the Chiefs.

“I've never at any time said anything negative about the team that gave me a chance to be a head coach.”

He added, “I'm surprised that it's even being talked about when we have as big a game as we have.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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