Despite my initial reservations, I’ve come around on Todd Haley, OC, even if he seems to lack basic people-person skills. But this is football; yelling, screaming, cursing and stomping aren’t out of the ordinary unless you’re Tony Dungy. A potentially bigger issue: doing a 180 with the Steelers’ offensive philosophy under Bruce Arians, a philosophy that, in general, had plenty of success. (Yes, I know, it wasn’t perfect. There were things to complain about but it could’ve been much, much worse. On this we can agree, right?)
In recent days, Big Ben has weighed in on Haley’s vision for what the Steelers’ O should look like and, well, it doesn’t sound a lot different than what we’ve become accustomed to. Which is to say, despite suggestions about getting back to running the ball, Haley plans on airing it out. During an appearance on the Rich Eisen Podcast, Señor Roethlisberger spoke to the (media driven?) run-first perception:
“I get a little confused at times because I know so much has been made about us quote-unquote throwing the ball too much, or we’re going back to Steeler football and running the ball more,” Ben said via PFT. “But in these meetings I’ve had with coach Haley he’s all about the no-huddle, and using our wide receiver weapons, and throwing the ball, and stuff like that, so I’m still confused. I’m not sure what’s going to happen yet.”
Hell and yes. Words like “no huddle” make me happy because for as often as Arians promised to break it out, he seldom did blaming circumstances and inexperience at the wide receiver position. But in Haley’s new offense, with his playbook and verbiage, everyone’s starting fro scratch. And maybe that’s not so much a bug as a feature, at least in terms of busting out the no-huddle more frequently. Ben also touched on the whole “run more” approach to matriculating the ball down the field.
“Right now we’re practicing the pass because it’s more complicated,” he told the Post-Gazette‘s Ed Bouchette Wednesday. “Steelers fans and coach Tomlin and the Rooneys apparently thought B.A. was throwing the ball too much. But yesterday in coach Haley’s office, we were talking about using the no-huddle and throwing the ball and how much we have to use our weapons.”
One concern: while the Ravens, Bengals, Patriots, Texans, Jets and Chargers (all playoff contenders in 2012) are familiar with the offensive system, the Steelers are on page 1 of the playbook. And Ben admits that learning a new scheme is slightly more difficult than taking a correspondence course to complete his undergraduate degree. Here’s what he told Eddie B. after leaving one of Haley’s classes at the Steelers’ facility.
“That one’s a little harder than the Miami ones I was doing. I joke and say that my final paper for Miami on Tibet was a lot easier than the Rosetta Stone we’re doing now here.”
So what’s different? “Everything,” Ben added. “The similarities would be on a shorter list. Off the top of my head, from what I’ve seen so far, there’s a 90 percent change.”
As for the Haley’s gruff demeanor, Ben’s holding off on forming an opinion. “You have to form your own opinion, and we’re starting to do that, starting to develop a relationship and we’ll see where it goes,”
Though he does admit what everybody already knew: he and Arians were boys. But unlike some folks, that wasn’t an issue for me. There are arguments that Ben occasionally needs some tough love, although based on his production I’m not sure why.
“Change doesn’t happen a lot in Pittsburgh,” he said. “They just don’t have a lot of changeover. So any time you lose a coach, a player — it would be uncomfortable, even, to lose an equipment guy or a training guy because everybody in Pittsburgh is family. So of course it’s going to hurt you and of course change is difficult. But people made such a big deal about us being upset, hissy fits, and nothing like that happened. It’s just you hate to see anybody that’s your family leave. So that was the tough part.”
One last thing: Ben’s making the media rounds (we’re still waiting for him to come on the SL Podcast) and during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, he was asked about the 49ers targeting his peg leg during the late-season Monday Night Football game that, in retrospect, he had no business playing.
“Um, wow, that’s tough,” he said. “I don’t really complain about that stuff, either. But I think when we played San Fran, I felt like there were some things going on, some extra … Now, obviously, I did have the ankle and I was playing, so there was kind of a bulls-eye on there anyway. But for the most part, guys play tough and you go into a game expecting it. I expect to be tougher than them.”
I like to joke that Ben’s too dumb to die, and I mean that with the utmost respect and affection. There isn’t a quarterback (and maybe even a player) in the league with Ben’s tolerance for pain. I have no issue with the 49ers (it is football, after all) and I applaud Roethlisberger for shrugging it off. Plus, this won’t ever be an issue again because the Steelers have DeCastro and Adams, and Colon’s moving to guard. (Irrational exuberance? WHY YES, YES IT IS.)