The Antonio Brown-Todd Haley situation

Ever since Todd Haley was introduced as the Steelers offensive coordinator prior to the 2012 season all eyes have been on him and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the football world waits for them to come to blows on the sidelines. Or, at the very least, for them to yell at each other.

To this point it hasn’t really happened, but that doesn’t mean other players aren’t having some issues with the offense.

According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Haley and Antonio Brown had a heated exchange of ideas during the Steelers 20-10 loss in Cincinnati on Monday night. The topic, as it always is with a wide receiver, was the number of passes being thrown in Brown’s direction.

From the P-G:

There, wide receiver Antonio Brown confronted offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Brown angrily complained to the coach that not enough pass plays were called for him, several sources told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Specifics of the argument were hard to come by but sources say that Haley was upset by Brown’s actions and that the two were still seething about it Tuesday. Brown’s complaint to Haley was harsh enough and the reaction to it along the sideline volatile to the point that many people there noticed, although it was not shown nor apparently caught on camera by anyone, including ESPN, which broadcast the game.

So that apparently happened, and according to Bouchette, it’s not the first time over the past two years that Brown has complained about the number of passes that he’s been involved in. It’s also not the first time somebody has taken exception with the play calling of an offensive coordinator.

These are the types of things that happen when your team is 0-2 and looking absolutely terrible in the process. It’s also the type of thing that happens when a wide receiver doesn’t feel like he’s getting the football enough (“enough” for most wide receivers would be every single play).

Through two games Brown has been targeted on just 16 passes (he was the target on just three passes at the time of Monday’s reported confrontation) which is tied for second on the team with Jerricho Cotchery. Emmanuel Sanders has been targeted on a team-high 22 passes through the first two weeks.

The fact Cotchery has been such a focal point of the offense through two games IS a little weird, especially since Cotchery seems to have little left in the tank and hasn’t been all that effective. On Monday, for example, the Steelers seemed to be going out of their way to get the football in Cotchery’s hands in the first half, throwing five passes in his direction (he caught none of them) and giving the ball to him on an end-around after taking Brown and Sanders off of the field.

Cotchery has seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown (a garbage time touchdown at the end of the Week 1 loss to Tennessee) but has dropped a couple of passes. Cotchery and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have at times looked like they’re on different pages of the playbook.

Brown has caught 11 of the 16 passes thrown in his direction for 128 yards.

With Mike Wallace now in Miami, Brown is the best receiver on the roster and thanks to the contract extension he signed prior to last season the highest paid receiver on the team, so it is a little strange to see the Steelers not getting the ball to him more often. Which brings up an entirely different set of questions. Are the Steelers not looking in his direction or trying hard enough to get him the ball? Or is he not getting the ball because he isn’t getting open, especially since there isn’t one of the NFL’s best deep threats lining up on the opposite side of the field? I’ve mentioned this many times before, but Brown is simply not a big-play wide receiver and like the rest of their current group doesn’t consistently get open. Since entering the NFL in 2010 Brown is 65th among receivers in touchdown catches (7), 35th in catches of 20-yards or more (32), and 73rd in catches of 30-yards or more (7).

Still, it’s a little concerning that through two games Jerricho Cotchery has had his number called as many times as Brown.

To remedy this situation, I’m guessing the Steelers have already added a bunch of new bubble screens and third-and-long draw plays to the playbook for Sunday night’s game against Chicago.

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  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    I want to see Guy Whimper get the ball on an end-around.

    • Cols714

      I’m sure Haley will figure out a way.

    • Terribletoweler

      There has to be someone slower we can give it to, come on.

      • Intropy

        Ramon Foster

        • Terribletoweler

          Flozell?

  • Cols714

    I think the Steelers made a rare error when they gave Brown that contract. He’s clearly not worth the money.

    Meanwhile Wallace plays well even with Tannehill.

    And to all the Steelers fans who wanted Mike Wallace gone, eph off.

    • #runthistowntonight

      Brown is a WR2 on his best day.
      This is only the beginning, just wait til the steelers lose to Cleveland.

    • GlennWa

      Yeah, I was a Mike Wallace supporter. There’s no way we could have afforded him at the price he ended up at, but before then? Maybe. Part of the problem with fan (and maybe team) assessments is that they are disproportionately biased towards the most recent performance, even in a small sample. In Wallace’s case, his last half-season (which was poor) erased the memories of his first 3.5 seasons. Not the direction you wanted to see a guy going in, but hardly definitive.

      • Cols714

        Yeah. Me too. I’m really not blaming anyone for him leaving. He got paid way more than what the Steelers were going to give him. What makes me mad is the glee a lot of Steelers fans took in him leaving. He was a great player while here, certainly one of our best WR over the last decade.

        Same with Arians. I wasn’t really unhappy that he was forced out, but fans reacted like it was the best thing ever instead of like a wildly successful coach who got us to two super bowls leaving.

        That’s really my entire complaint. I think I’ll stop complaining about Haley now.

        • Canadian Steeler

          I slightly disagree on Arians, in that I think you can justify making a change. Ben was getting killed and we weren’t scoring enough touchdowns. Classic case of being careful what you wish for. We’re far worse in both respects now. Incredibly frustrating seeing Ben struggle back there mentally as much as anything. I don’t think you can even justify that it’s just an adjustment thing. It’s been getting progressively worse since Ben got injured last year. There is zero chemistry.

          The idea that AB is a #2 on a good day is over the top. The money may have been a mistake, but he’s not as bad as he’s shown. He still has incredible quickness in and out of breaks, and it feels like it’s this offence (read: Haley)’s fault for why that’s not being featured. The pieces of this offence have definitely degraded in terms of talent, but I’d still say that the offence is less than the sum of its parts.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I made a semi-facetious point about a week ago about Ben’s play being affected by having a newborn at home. Turns out that the stats support this. Of course, he was also injured at almost the same time. Get some sleep and get well Ben!

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2013/9/18/4743660/steelers-ben-roethlisberger-statistics-nfl-2013

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    One of the worst parts of being 0-2 is that is brings out the nut jobs calling for Tomlin to be fired. Having grown up in the Pittsburgh era, I’m sadly aware of the real motivation of many (and, probably, almost all) of this mob. Despite being proud of many aspects of the city, this is (hopefully obviously) not one of them, to day the least.

    No human is above criticism, so there are things Tomlin can improve on. But the idea that he should be fired is (hopefully obviously) ludicrous.

    • Intropy

      I think Tomlin has proven to be a significantly worse coach in recent years than he appeared to be at the beginning of his tenure. Whether his faults were hidden by stellar play or outstanding veteran player leadership or he’s regressed or we just didn’t want to see it to begin with.

      His clock and challenge management has been poor, and the Steelers seem ineffective at making in game adjustments when plan A goes awry. He seems to have a way with the players as a plus.

      That said, I hope he sticks around for two reasons. First, I think despite the faults he’s still an above-average coach and we’re unlikely to find a better one. Second, continuity matters. It helps your team grow. All other things equal I’d rather stay with whom we have than switch.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    In an earlier thread, I said the Steelers are 2-24 on 3rd down. I read their stat sheet wrong: it is actually 7-25 (28)%. This is the third worst in the NFL. Last year, we were 8th in the league at 41.96%; if we were performing at that rate, we’d have 10.5 first downs so far.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Funny / sad stat of the week: so far this year, Alex Smith and Andrew Luck each have more rushing yards than the Steelers.

    • Rob D

      O my…I need to sit down.

    • David

      And watching this game, it looked like turnovers just came to the chefs on a silver platter. Why can’t we get them like that?

  • David

    Digesting the news today, I can’t help but wonder if Richardson could’ve helped us out this yr. A 1st is a steep price.

    On one hand, he’s a bruiser; on the other, unless he can play OT, he’d be no help.

    Just wonderin’, as Neil Young would say.

    • countertorque

      I vote no on 1st round picks for running backs. Unless, of course, he can tell Ben how to stop overthrowing WR’s.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    As of today, we are 1 game out of first place with 87.5% of the season left. Obviously, we need to play better, and hopefully we’ll play “above the line” this week.

    • Rob D

      yep, I hate what I’ve seen so far but we are in a kaka division. There’s hope. But an 0-3 start ? That’s going to be hard to take. O well, they’d ONLY have to win 11 of 13 to fulfill my prophecy for them for 2013. Surely, they won’t let me down. I bought a jersey this year for crap’s sake..a real one, not a knock off either. You’d think they would appreciate my efforts…