I’m not sure what position is worse to have right now in Pittsburgh: Pirates General Manager or Steelers Offensive Coordinator. The Steelers’ granted permission to current OC Todd Haley to interview with Arizona for their current head coaching vacancy and needless to say, opinion is torn about whether Steeler Nation wants Haley to stay or go for the betterment of the team. I’m here to say with both professional insight and personal bias that the Steelers will be off if Todd Haley is returns to the desert.
First and foremost is the lack of chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger. Haley’s system is perfect for Antonio Brown, Heath Miller and Emmanuel Sanders who should all remain Ben’s primary weapons. The problem is that if Ben isn’t into the system, then it doesn’t matter who is catching passes. Even in a system that protects Ben with quick passes, he finds ways to get hurt. As this medical perspective shows, if Ben keeps sustaining strains in his shoulder, his performance is going to keep dropping.
Moral of the story: Ben has a limited amount of time left and just lost another season. The team cannot afford to have him potentially spend the next couple of years feeling out a system he isn’t giving 100% to. I do think Roethlisberger is a professional who won’t sabotage winning for a personal stance but it was evident that miscommunication cost the Steelers wins.
Secondly, the handling of the running backs from Haley/Tomlin is enough of a reason to see him go to Arizona without complaint. Remember, he was brought in because his predecessor didn’t run the ball enough, failed in the redzone and had issues in short yardage situations.
Did that significantly change this year? In reality, rushing yardage and efficiency was down this year (1,903 yards 4.4/carry to 1,537 3.7/carry) while TD Red Zone efficiency, which was 18th last season at 50.9%, marginally increased to 55% and 14th in the league.
While Haley and the Steelers were handed a poor hand with injuries, the same could be said of last year’s team. The offensive line is always banged up and the running back rotation led to predictability with the offense. By the way, the success Ariens is having in Indianapolis only makes all of this even more difficult to handle at times.
Thus, I say that Haley gets brushed out on a plane and dons the Cardinals garb again and the Steelers promote Randy Fichtner to Offensive Coordinator. Fitchner is Ben’s quarterbacks coach and works closely with the wide receivers. All of these positions have seen progression under his watch. Furthermore, his experience with schemes goes back to when he was one of the first coaches at the college level to utilize a balanced spread offense.
I have a source close to Fichtner who has told me several times before that he wants the coordinator job very badly. It would be a great internal hire who would fix a lot of issues Haley is leaving. Kirby Wilson is another likely candidate and probably the favorite if Haley leaves which I’m fine with as well.
Bottom line: The Steelers under Haley failed to do anything but make the team worse in some areas and create issues with the one guy on the field the Steelers need to perform consistently. Let’s see if anything happens.