Sports

Rooney II hires Todd Haley to run Steelers’ offense

Ben Roethlisberger (No. 7) might butt heads with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. (credit: Courtesy of Alexabboud via Flickr) Ben Roethlisberger (No. 7) might butt heads with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. (credit: Courtesy of Alexabboud via Flickr)

It seems the time has come for a change in the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the exception of their head coach and offensive skill players, the Steelers are some of the oldest in the league: They have grizzled veterans both on the field and in their coaching staff. After watching their franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, get knocked down and beaten up nearly every play, team owner Art Rooney II made a change in the team’s offensive coordinator position without consulting head coach Mike Tomlin.

Although it was publicly announced that former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians retired, there were rumors that Rooney forced him into retirement. This was an attempt to avoid the bad publicity of not renewing Arians’ contract.Meanwhile, Arians became the new offensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts, further justifying that he was forced into retirement instead of making the decision himself.

To make matters worse, Roethlisberger was publicly upset with Arians’ supposed retirement.

Roethlisberger and Arians joined at the same time in 2004 and developed a very good rapport. When the news of Arians’ retirement reached Roethlisberger, he responded by publicly requesting a meeting with Rooney.

To fill the void, the Steelers hired Todd Haley to be the new offensive coordinator. Haley made his name as the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, the season they faced the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. He was then hired to be the head coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, but was fired with three games left in the season due to the Chiefs’ poor record and Haley’s poor relationship with the players and the front office.

Haley’s offensive philosophy is very different in comparison to Arians’. Haley’s game plan is similar to the high-octane passing attacks used by the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots. This is in stark contrast to the “Ground and Pound” running-based style that the Steelers have employed in the past. The players hope this move will bring their offense into the modern style and eliminate much of the predictability that has plagued them in recent seasons.

While Haley brings a completely different offensive philosophy with him, he also brings a significantly different personality. He has an abrasive personality and has had rocky relationships with his past teams. The sight of Haley and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner yelling at each other became common. There were also rumors of Haley and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli having strong disdain for each other and butting heads on personnel decisions.

Many believe Haley was added to Tomlin’s staff not only to revitalize the offense, but also to put a little more pressure on Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger was very comfortable with Arians and may not have been performing at his best. The Steelers believe Roethlisberger can turn into a 5,000-yard passer, like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

But the Steelers have never been a pass-first team. Their offensive line was built with the idea of creating holes for the running back, and protecting the quarterback was an afterthought. Moreover, having Roethlisberger drop back to pass 20 more times per game will open him up to even more hits and injuries.

Another problem is the Steelers’ receivers. Wide receivers Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace thrive in the deep-passing game. The issue is that most of these deep plays are set up by the play-action, and thus need a strong running game to succeed. The Steelers don’t have the wide receivers or tight ends to run a pass-first offensive.

While Haley’s hiring may be seen as a way of turning Roethlisberger into a better quarterback, it is important to look at the effect on the rest of the offense. Historically, new offensive coordinators and returning quarterbacks underperform. Fans should not be surprised next season if the Steelers’ high-octane offense gets stuck in neutral.