Haley's portfolio loaded with candor, feistiness

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If the Steelers wanted an offensive coordinator who will be tough on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, they found the right person in Todd Haley.

As an offensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals, Haley often got into arguments and in-your-face debates with some of his top players, including star quarterback Kurt Warner.

As coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, he even argued and feuded with the team's general manager, Scott Pioli, because of his passionate style.

Haley, 44, will bring some of that and more to the Steelers, who have hired him as their new offensive coordinator -- the first time in the past 13 years they have gone outside their organization to hire a coach to run their offense.

His fiery, tempestuous style will be in direct contrast to the person he replaces, Bruce Arians, who had a chummy relationship with Roethlisberger in his five years as the team's offensive coordinator. Curiously, that relationship might ultimately have led to his departure.

"It doesn't matter where you stand on the totem pole," Warner said in a phone interview Tuesday, hours after Haley's hiring was announced by the Steelers.

"If he sees something you can do better, he lets you know about it. That was a reason for our success."

Haley, who grew up in Upper St. Clair, is the most significant coaching hire coach Mike Tomlin has had to make since he inherited Arians and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau from Bill Cowher's staff in 2007.

Despite not getting a lot of attention from other NFL teams after he was fired, Haley was very impressive when he interviewed last week with Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II.

The Steelers even announced the meeting on their website -- something they rarely do with coaching interviews.

The Steelers did not seek Roethlisberger's input on the hiring of Haley.

"I enjoyed playing for him," said Warner, a two-time league MVP and Super Bowl MVP with the St. Louis Rams before he joined the Cardinals. "I'm a guy who loves to be challenged in a lot of different ways, and that's what Todd is about. He pushed me and wanted me to be great. He pushed the guys around me to be great."

Haley had a chance to return to the Cardinals as quarterbacks coach and help run their offense.

But that opportunity fell through, and he ended up with the Steelers, a franchise where his dad, Dick, served as personnel director from 1971 to 1990.

"I am excited about the opportunity to come back home and work for a tremendous organization," Haley said in a statement. "It is an honor to work with the Rooney family and coach [Mike] Tomlin and continue the success that has become synonymous with the Steelers.

"My father has so many fond memories both from his playing days and his time in the personnel department with the team, and I look forward to helping bring more championships to Pittsburgh and to being a part of one of the storied franchises in the NFL."

The Steelers have gone outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator three other times since Chuck Noll became coach in 1969 -- Joe Walton in 1990, Ray Sherman in '98 and Kevin Gilbride in '99.

None of those coordinators made the playoffs in five combined seasons with the Steelers -- a streak Haley hopes to break.

Curiously, Haley was Arizona's offensive coordinator when the Cardinals lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. And he led Kansas City to the playoffs in his second season as coach before he was fired in December after the Chiefs compiled a 5-8 record.

Haley also served as an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys (2004-06), Chicago Bears (2001-03) and the New York Jets (1997-2000).

"He's a good football coach and he did a great job for us in that role," said Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, who hired Haley as his offensive coordinator when he took over the Arizona franchise in 2007. "He's very passionate and very knowledgeable. Having been with Todd for a number of years and knowing how much that organization meant to him because of his dad, I'm glad he got that opportunity."

Haley's hiring ends, to some degree, a tumultuous, two-week period that began when the Steelers decided not to renew Arians' contract -- even though Tomlin has told him several times since the playoff loss in Denver that he wanted him to return in '12.

The Steelers announced Arians was retiring and a week later he was hired as offensive coordinator by the Indianapolis Colts. The decision not to renew Arians' contract was initiated by Rooney, in part because of a difference in opinion about the way Roethlisberger was allowed to free-wheel in the offense -- a style that led to a team-record number of sacks and increased the pounding on his body.

Rooney said after the season he believed Roethlisberger needed to "tweak" the way he plays -- a reference to his reckless style and penchant for holding the ball longer to make a play.

But, that declaration could have been a shot -- and a telling one -- at Arians, who said earlier in the season that his quarterback did not need to change the way he plays because his style is the reason the Steelers have won many games.

The Steelers believe Haley can help with that "tweak."

"It's not about the yelling and screaming; I'm OK with that," said Warner, who had several sideline arguments with Haley when they were with the Cardinals.

"He just wants you to do the right thing. Instead of getting offended, maybe you have to look at yourself and say, 'OK, that's a legitimate concern.' That's the way you get good. That's how you stay great.

"He will be good for Ben, not that Ben needs a lot of help. He's a great quarterback."

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com ; twitter: @gerrydulac. First Published February 8, 2012 5:00 AM


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