Recent play-calling magic draws praise from Roethlisberger
November 7, 2014 12:00 AM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, right, talks with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline during a game against the Houston Texans on Oct. 20.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If there is anyone on offense who is on a hotter roll besides Ben Roethlisberger it might be the guy calling the plays.
Todd Haley, the mad no-hatter, is, like his quarterback, at the top of his game these days.
“He’s in a groove right now,” Roethlisberger said Thursday about the Steelers offensive coordinator. “Obviously, we have to execute what he calls but … I’ve heard other coordinators talk about it, it’s like a player when you’re just feeling it somehow. I don’t know what it is, but you’re just calling the right plays at the right time.
“He’s doing great right now.”
The Steelers offense has piled up 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns the past two games and, besides Roethlisberger’s records and the obvious, two other significant factors might have contributed to the outburst: They did it all by huddling, and Haley went hatless on the sideline.
Take the latter first. Haley usually wears a black Steelers ballcap during games. For some reason, he wore none Oct. 26, and the Steelers offense bludgeoned the Indianapolis Colts, 51-34. He went hatless again last Sunday and they beat Baltimore, 43-23, behind six more Roethlisberger touchdown throws.
Do not look for Haley to wear a hat Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We all have superstitions,” Roethlisberger explained.
Then there was the non-use of the no-huddle in either of the past two games. That scheme worked so well in the second half of the 2013 season that they all promised more of it in 2014, including the quarterback and his coach. They did use it more early and then, suddenly, total darkness at Heinz Field and their biggest output in years followed on offense.
That means that, unlike in the no-huddle when Roethlisberger calls the plays, Haley called most of those plays that produced all those fireworks.
Part of the explanation could be the use of rookie Martavis Bryant at receiver.
“I think with some new guys in here and some of the rotation at receiver, getting into more huddle calls has given them a chance to focus in on what they have to do,” Haley explained. “We’ve had success with it, but we’ve had some success going the way we’re going against the two teams we played, and there was no need to get out of what we were doing at the time.”
As Roethlisberger said, “Why change what’s working right now?”
There were other reasons they huddled. They wanted to keep the ball away from the opposing quarterbacks, Andrew Luck and Joe Flacco.
“Usually, in the no-huddle, it’s up-tempo, it’s faster,” Roethlisberger said. “Even if you’re going all the way down the field and scoring, usually it’s a little quicker. You can score faster but you’re off the field faster for negative things as well.
“Some of these teams we’re playing with offenses that possess it and hold it, we want to say let’s slow it down a bit, possess it longer and see if we can keep our time of possession way up. So it’s a two-sided thing.”
The Jets do not have that kind of offense, but they are capable of keeping the ball away by running it. They have the third-best rushing game in the NFL and have had the ball one minute more on average than their opponents.
Either way, why take the call out of Haley’s hands when he’s on such a roll?
“He’s doing great,” Roethlisberger said. “I came out after the Colts game and said, hey, the players played good, but Todd called a good game. He did last week, too.”
More about play-calling
Roethlisberger said he still gets questions about his relationship with Haley, and he does not know why.
“People ask me, is your relationship better now? It’s so silly, you know?”
The quarterback insisted there never was a rocky relationship between him and his coordinator.
“It’s more than old news, it never should have been news. I get those same questions: ‘It seems like you guys are great and the relationship is a lot better.’ Well it was never even an issue.”
Roethlisberger pointed to a play that was called Sunday that led to him throwing a 47-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the second quarter against Baltimore.
“We go to the sideline, and he’ll say ‘What do you like, what do you want?” Roethlisberger said. “On the touchdown to Wheaton, he said ‘What do you like here?’ ”
Roethlisberger suggested a play he thought would work.
“I do, too, let’s do it,” Haley replied, according to the quarterback.
“For him as a coordinator to put ego aside and say, ‘OK, what do you want? OK, let’s do it’ I think speaks volumes for where he’s at and what he’s doing.”
Jets are well-grounded
The Jets’ No. 3 rushing offense will face a Steelers defense that is ranked 25th in the NFL in yards allowed per run. It’s one way the underdogs could pull off the upset on Sunday.
“They have three really good running backs,” nose tackle Steve McLendon said.
Those would be Chris Ivory (497 yards, 4.6 average), Chris Johnson (337, 4.3) and Bilal Powell (98, 4.7).
“You have a good offensive line with good running backs and on top of that you have quarterbacks who can run,” McLendon said.
Michael Vick has run only 16 times but has 110 yards, and the Steelers have seen his act in the past, often to their detriment.
“Michael Vick is still Michael Vick,” McLendon said. “He still can run, he’s very quick, he’s very fast.”
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