Bob Smizik: Haley’s future; Tomlin’s clock management

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Only Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley know the precise nature of their off-the-field relationship. But on the field, well, that’s a different story. The two seem to be in near-perfect harmony. So much so that the once-popular notion that Haley would be dismissed at the end of the season -- if not sooner -- appears to be ridiculous today.

Haley came to the Steelers in February of 2012 with the reputation of a guy who wants it done his way. This led to a belief he and Roethlisberger, perhaps used to having his way with his offensive coordinator, would clash. No doubt, they probably have. But the two seem to have, at least, a firm professional relationship.

After a poor offensive start to the season -- four touchdowns in the first three games -- the Steelers are averaging 29.25 points over the past eight games. If that were carried out over a full season, it would place the Steelers second in the league. That’s not to suggest they’re second. It is to suggest the team has been scoring at a most satisfactory rate.

Haley deserves some of the credit for that.

Roethlisberger is having one of his best seasons, if not his best, as a pro. He needs 246 yards Sunday against Cleveland to break the record of 4,328 he set in 2009. Wide receiver Antonio Brown has emerged as one of the best in the league. He is second in receptions with 101 and third in yards with 1,412, a team record.

Haley doesn’t deserve to be fired; he deserves a raise.

* * *

Some people have a mind for clock management and some don’t. I know this because I don’t. That’s one of the reasons I usually stay out of discussions on that matter. Call me lacking in intelligence if you wish, but I simply have trouble wrapping my mind around the intricacies of that matter.

Maybe Mike Tomlin does, too.

I used to dismiss the rantings of his clock-management shortcomings as the frustrated yelps of disappointed fans. Lately, though, those criticisms have been ringing more true.

Tomlin is a smart guy. Even his most venomous critics likely would acknowledge that. He either needs to work harder at his clock-management skills or hire someone who has a total mastery of that subject and have that person upstairs and in his ear every Sunday.

* * *

There are no statistics to combat the notion held by some that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau should be fired. But the Steelers problems on defense appear to more personnel related than tactical.

The Steelers secondary is old and not nearly as good as it once was. The team has not had anything approaching the ferocious outside pass rush it received in the Super Bowl years of 2008 and 2010 from James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

LeBeau must take some of the blame but this is not close to being a fireable offense. If he does not return next season, it will be of his choosing.

* * *

Mike Ditka had a most unflattering remarks Sunday about Troy Polamalu on ESPN’s pre-game show:

''It’s kind of disturbing me when I look up and see No. 43 playing linebacker because he can’t play in the secondary because he can’t cover. Period! And that’s a fact.’’

* * *

In the 2013 draft, the first four running backs taken were, Giovani Bernard, 37th by Cincinnati; Le’Veon Bell 48th by the Steelers; Montee Ball, 58th by Denver; Eddie Lacy 61st by Green Bay.

Their numbers:

Lacy: 1,112 yards, 4.2 average; 33 receptions for 242 yards;

Bell: 770 yards, 3.4 average; 44 receptions for 393 yards;

Bernard: 673 yards, 4.3 average; 51 receptions for 463 yards;

Ball: 487 yards, 4.4 average; 17 receptions for 123 yards.

Bernard and Ball were not their team’s full-time backs. Bernard shares time with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Ball plays behind Knowshon Moreno.

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