A different Todd Haley will run a different offense with the Steelers this season. How different?
"I hope a better offense," the coordinator said Tuesday. "Obviously, we didn't get it done last year."
That would be an understatement.
Many reasons can be cited for the collapse of the offense in the second half of the 2012 season -- from injuries, to a rash of turnovers, to lack of ability to run -- but it was nowhere near what Haley and Mike Tomlin wanted.
Things will be different this season, and they hope the difference will make them better. They will use a different blocking scheme and have a different, high draft pick at halfback. They also lost one of the league's best deep threats at receiver and retooled the offensive line.
"You can't stay the same," Haley said.
That could describe his offense, it also could describe Haley in his second season running it. Last year, Haley replaced the fired Bruce Arians as offensive coordinator and walked through the front doors on the South Side like a gunslinger into a saloon looking for the bad guys.
Relationships with fellow offensive coaches and players never warmed up, and neither did the offense. Things seem to have changed a year later. Ben Roethlisberger, who called it "growing pains," opened training camp by saying he and Haley see more eye-to-eye.
"We've been able to talk, to communicate and I see a relationship really kind of coming together," Roethlisberger said.
Haley agreed, saying things are more "comfortable" with everyone on offense this season. He explained why and how he thinks it will improve the offense.
"You coach to the circumstances," said Haley. "That's why it was such a great, professional growing experience for me. Generally, as a coach, when you get to a place, it's broke, and you have to go in with guns blazing and get it right. I'm proud of everywhere I've been that I've been part of turning around places and been successful.
"But coming into a team that won 12 games and is in the playoffs -- and you're the only new guy, by the way -- it calls for a different way to coach."
It took Haley awhile to realize that, and, once he did, he developed a different approach he hopes will work better this year.
"It's night and day," he said of the give-and-take among the players and coaches. "You can't speed up the process of getting to know people that you haven't previously known. But through time and experience, trust is built, and you get to know, and I think that's what's kind of going on.
"I'm not speaking for anybody else, but I think everybody's more comfortable, and that's the way it should be. I know that it's night and day for me.
"It's much more fun when you know people's personality and strengths and weaknesses, as a coach especially because that's what you're trying to play to.
"That's the key this year going forward, is the trust level needs to continue to build, coach to coach, coach to player, player to player, player to coach. That's when you get good, when ... there's give-and-take trust, you're going to get stuff done."
Roethlisberger said Haley has been open to suggestions on play-calling and also in reducing the playbook so they can run fewer plays but be better at them.
"That again comes through experience," Haley said. "That's what we spent our whole offseason, breaking down last season. And I said let's not waste our time [running plays that did not work well].
"It's not my offense, it's not my system, it's my terminology that I'm comfortable with and that's where the give and take went on, to make everybody comfortable. But that's easier in year two, also. I have to call the plays, too, and if I don't know what something means, that's a problem, too
"But when you go and you look back at things, it became a much clearer picture of what [Roethlisberger] specifically is really good at and what other guys on the field are good at. And you always have to integrate new players into the deal, but that's easier when everybody else is solidified."
Haley says he is excited about running a zone-blocking scheme, the kind he ran when he was head coach in Kansas City and the Chiefs led the league in rushing yards. He wanted to install it last season, but things did not work out, and the idea was quickly abandoned.
Now they have a new line coach, Jack Bicknell Jr., who has coached it and linemen they feel suit it better. They also have a back in rookie Le'Veon Bell who fits it perfectly.
Haley believes those things will produce an improved ground game, one that sunk to 26th in the NFL last season as backs and linemen continued to leave the field with injuries.
"We showed some flashes, we had some stretches where we ran good," Haley said of 2012. "We'd get a runner who looked like he had a chance to be good and then he got hurt. We'd have another one get in and we never quite got the continuity in the run game that we needed. And on top of that, being a little not quite as versatile as we needed to be, in my opinion.
"To be balanced you have to run efficiently. It doesn't mean that you run as much as you pass or pass as much as you run. You do what you're doing well. But you have to run efficiently. If we do that and protect the football, I believe we can throw the ball with anyone.
"I think we're in a position this year, personnel-wise, to become a little more diverse in the run and pass game. Hopefully that will translate into being better."Steelers - mobilehome - homepage
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published August 7, 2013 4:00 AM