Depending on who you’re talking to it is either the end of the world or the start offensive greatness for Steeler Nation. Todd Haley was officially announced as the newest Offensive Coordinator for the Steelers on Tuesday. Haley is expected to have a press conference today at the Steelers facility and it also might be the first time we hear from Mike Tomlin since the Denver hangover press conference last month. So what does this loud mouth hobo have in store for the Nation? Let’s speculate, shall we?
I kid about the loud mouth hobo part of course. Of course he does kind of look like a hobo, he looks like he should be carrying one of those sticks with the sack tied to the end of it and standing next to the railroad tracks. Hopefully he got a clean shave and clean hoodie once he got back to Pittsburgh, where he was a ball boy as a kid while his dad was working in the Steelers front office. Haley definitely has Pittsburgh ties but will that make him the perfect fit in the Burgh? Was he brought in to reel in Ben or to revamp the offense back to the ground and pound? Is he going to save Hines Ward for one more year as a Steeler and put him in a productive role?
Haley’s temper and sideline antics are well documented. He’s a screamer and he actually enjoys when the players scream back at him. Oddly enough, for fans used to cheering when seeing our former head coach scream and spit on players, people are seeing this as a down side. Last season Haley and Kansas City QB Matt Cassel had to be separated during an argument on the sidelines. The biggest concern with Haley is how he will handle Ben, especially knowing Ben’s feelings about BA’s departure. Tomlin’s demeanor on the sidelines is cool as a cucumber, with the occasional chest bump with a player after a “splash play”. I haven’t seen any kind of outward emotions from Dick LeBeau on the sidelines ever. How will Haley’s antics mesh with the other coaches? I can’t believe that this hire was completely orchestrated by Art Rooney II and not signed off on by Tomlin, I just can’t. If Tomlin wasn’t OK with this, I just can’t see it going down. When we are all up in arms worrying about how Ben and the rest of the offense is going to handle the change, let’s not forget everyone’s first reaction when Tomlin was announced HC over Whisenhunt or Grimm. We’re yinzers, we don’t like change. Doesn’t mean change is a bad thing though. Like former NFL Commish Pete Rozelle once said, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway.”
Haley’s offense with the Arizona Cardinals put up some impressive numbers including three receivers with over 1,000 yards. They scored a franchise record 427 points the season the Cardinals met the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. After joining the Kansas City Chiefs, Haley (with the help of Charlie Weiss as OC) oversaw the league’s top-ranked running game in 2010. Seems to me that Haley can have his system adapt to personnel and I doubt we’ll see a complete overhaul of the offense with him in place. His former QB Kurt Warner thinks that Haley will be successful in Pittsburgh and will bring the best out of Ben, even with the yelling. He was quoted as saying,
“He will be good for Ben, not that Ben needs a lot of help. He’s a great quarterback.”
With the cuts already coming down from the front office, it should be just a few weeks until we know the fate of the most decorated Steelers WR in franchise history, Hines Ward. There is still about $13 million or so left to get under the cap, even without resigning Mike Wallace, which was already said to be a priority. Cotchery was only on a one year contract and it seems unlikely that the team will be able to keep both Ward and Cotchery, no matter how low Ward is willing to go in restructuring his deal. I hate to see this be the end of Ward as a Steeler while he still feels like he has something left. I’d love to see Haley be able to bring Ward back into production, either on 3rd downs or in the red zone where I feel Ward can still be successful. It’s been noted that Arians was not the biggest Hines Ward fan and wanted to explore the younger talent on the team rather than include Ward in the offensive packages, which is why we saw Ward on the sidelines with his hood up for the majority of the season. I hope that Haley can find a productive role for Ward, enough of one to justify his roster spot. With the salary cap being what it is, I just can’t see keeping Ward, as a 4th or 5th WR, on the team.
So where am I at with the Haley signing as the new OC? I’m cautiously optimistic. I honestly don’t know how his unique “style” of sideline behavior and player interaction will mesh with the Steelers style but I doubt that Tomlin will have a coach on his staff that causes more trouble than he’s worth and I also know that winning will cure even the most heinous personality clashes. If the Steelers go 14-2 with an offense ranked in the top 5 and another top ranked defense, the majority of Steeler Nation could be sporting permanent 5 o’clock shadows and dirty hoodies this time next year. I think now is as good of a time as any for Ben to have that “sit down” he wanted to have when he was all miffed about his buddy BA getting canned and he’ll learn that while he’s the leader of the Steelers offense, he’s not in charge of decision makings. Ben should know the direction this offense is going and how they can put up the numbers they put up this season, but get the ball in the endzone and be an efficient offense. I don’t think he was disrespected or put in his place at all, we are all stubborn and we don’t like change. I’m reserving my final judgment until I see where this is going to go. That way I can’t be held to my stance if this all blows up in our faces. Either way, it’s shaping up to be an interesting offseason and an intriguing upcoming season already.
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