With their rushing attack struggling in 2013, the Pittsburgh Steelers also lost the ability to successfully utilize their play-action passing attack.
The Steelers ranked 27th in the league last season in rushing and were tied for 29th in average yards per carry at just 3.5 yards per attempt. That lack of effectiveness on the ground made it easy for opposing defenses to not have to respect their play-action fakes. It was a missing aspect of the Steelers offense that they hope to recapture this season.
According to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers used play-action on just 11 percent of their passing plays last season. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley wants to see that number increase this season.
“Running the football, whether we’re huddling or no-huddling, is something we’ll do better, a lot better,” Haley said. “That will only help what we’ll be able to do. I believe we’ll be able to throw it with anybody.
“When you can throw it as well as we did with the run game not exactly where we wanted it tells you we have a chance to be good. When you’re running the football it makes throwing a heck of a lot easier.”
Per the Post-Gazette, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had only 74 dropbacks with play-action last season, throwing for 470 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Steelers did see some positive signs from rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, who started 13 games for Pittsburgh last year. Bell rushed for 860 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 45 passes out of the backfield for 399 yards. If Bell and the rest of the Steelers rushing attack can take a step forward, it could help bring that play-action element back to the offense and provide some better opportunities in the passing game for Roethlisberger.