Not only did Art Rooney II say he had nothing to do with the hiring of Todd Haley, but the Steelers president also was a bit surprised that coach Mike Tomlin wound up hiring him as his new offensive coordinator.
"I think the bottom line is, Mike was comfortable that's who he wanted to come in," Rooney said Thursday afternoon. "It may be fair to say that when he started the discussions and Todd's name was on his original list, I don't think he expected that Todd was the guy he was going to wind up hiring. But as he had more conversations with him, he became more comfortable that he was the right guy for the job."
Rooney agreed to an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to counter rampant speculation that he, not Tomlin, hired Haley to replace Bruce Arians, whose contract was not renewed by the team.
Rooney talked about the process and said that Haley and former Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell were the only candidates Tomlin invited to Pittsburgh for interviews. He said he and general manager Kevin Colbert were kept informed by the coach.
"Mike identified a number of candidates that he wanted to talk to and did all of the initial discussions," Rooney said. "We talked about who he was talking to. Kevin and I talked to him, and he sort of kept us in the loop as to who he was thinking about.
"Then he decided who he wanted to bring in for a follow-up interview into Pittsburgh. I did talk to the guys who came into Pittsburgh. I'm not even sure I'd call it an interview, but I had a conversation with them.
"I wouldn't want my role in it to be overestimated because Mike has to decide who he wants on the staff. Even though there's always a discussion between me and Mike about who he's hiring and how much we're paying him and those kinds of things, it's normally a discussion of the business side of the arrangement than, 'Are we going to hire a guy who's going to run the ball so many times a game.' It was a fairly normal process as far as I'm concerned in terms of how we've done those kinds of hirings in the past."
Dick Haley, Todd's father, had a long run with the Steelers, first as a cornerback in his final four seasons in the NFL, and then for 20 years as their director of player personnel. Todd Haley was a Steelers ballboy. However, those family connections had nothing to do with Haley being a candidate for the job, Rooney said.
"No. I've known the Haley family for a long time and I have great respect for Todd's father. Really, I've had very little contact with Todd for most of his adult life. I knew him as a kid. It's not like Todd is somebody I've had this long friendship with and been dying to bring here.
"I've respected his work and enjoyed seeing him sort of grow in the league. He's had a somewhat unusual path into the league, not coming from the football world, and that's one of the more impressive aspects of how much he's accomplished. But as far as him being a friend of mine or a friend of the family had nothing to do with it."
As for the matter of how quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Haley will get along, Rooney said he met with Roethlisberger this week and he foresees no problem between the two.
"I had a good conversation with Ben the other day and he's anxious to get started and to get to know him. It's February."
Rooney laughed when asked if Haley and Roethlisberger had yet met, and said facetiously, "We're getting to the point where every time somebody meets with somebody around here we've got to have a press conference."
First Published February 17, 2012 5:00 AM