Roethlisberger eager to learn where offense is headed

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Todd Haley has been hired, has met with his new colleagues on Mike Tomlin's coaching staff and members of the Steelers front office, and he finally met with the media Thursday.

But he still has not talked to the man who makes that offense go, and they likely won't meet until next week.

"I haven't talked to him," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Thursday morning at the Steelers training facility an hour before Tomlin introduced Haley as his new offensive coordinator.

He is eager to do so and anxious about what Haley wants to do with the offense. Roethlisberger also has done some research of his own.

"I've gotten a lot of calls and texts and emails from people around the league, both good and bad about him," Roethlisberger said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Everybody has an opinion, as we all know, and they're letting me know what their interaction with him was -- good, bad and indifferent. I've heard a lot of things and I'm looking forward to meeting him and forming my own opinion."

Roethlisberger admitted he was "shocked" when he learned Bruce Arians was not offered a contract renewal as offensive coordinator. He said Tomlin had kept him in the "loop" about his search for Arians' replacement, although he had no input into who that would be.

Now, Roethlisberger is anxious about what offense Haley might run -- whether he will chuck the Steelers playbook that has evolved from Mike Mularkey to Ken Whisenhunt to Arians in favor of his own, whether he will maintain the Steelers offense, or whether there will be some type of meshing of the two.

Haley was not definitive about his offensive plans at his news conference, just that he would "start with a clean slate."

"It would probably be easy for him to do," Roethlisberger said about Haley possibly introducing a new offense to the Steelers. "I don't know if it would be easy for us to learn it. We're so young on offense and the most-talented room in this whole building is probably wide receiver, no disrespect to anyone else. And they're also really young.

"They're still the tip of the iceberg in this offense and they did as well as they did last year. And they're just getting to the point that 'OK, this makes sense to me.'

"That was my biggest talking point to Mike and those guys -- I would hate to just throw everything out and start over because I feel it would set us back two or three years because these guys are just starting to get it.

"I hope we don't have to start over and, if we do, you know what, here we go. Let's do it. We'll do it. We're not going to complain about it. But I would hate to have to set certain guys back who are doing so well right now."

Roethlisberger has remained in town and has been working out at the Steelers facility. He had hoped to see Steelers president Art Rooney II Thursday, but Rooney was not there. Roethlisberger wants to talk to him about his opinions about the offense and the quarterback, including Rooney's statement that Roethlisberger needs to tweak his game.

Roethlisberger said people misinterpreted his comments from the Pro Bowl that he wanted to talk to Rooney about such things.

"People made such a big deal because they thought I was going to go in an uproar -- 'What do you mean?' -- it's going in and asking questions."

Roethlisberger said such questions might include: "What do you mean by tweak my game, tweak the offense? As one of the oldest guys on offense, what do you see for our offense, where do you see us going, what do you want us to do?

"Things like that," Roethlisberger explained, "because, when guys on the team come and ask me questions, I want to be able to have answers for them instead of, 'I don't know.'

"If I can go in and talk as one of the older guys and one of the captains and leaders on this team, I feel that's my duty every year."

Roethlisberger and Tomlin talked after Arians' firing. Roethlisberger's first reaction was "shock, surprise."

"It's not like it was a secret of our troubles on offense," Roethlisberger said. "We were just as disappointed as the fans, the media, Mr. Rooney, coach Tomlin. We felt like we were good on offense, we actually were pretty proud of how we did, considering all the injuries we had.

"We fought through some tough things and did some good things. But we know we fell way short in the red zone and things like that. So, I guess the initial reaction was shock because no one saw it coming, or, at least, the players didn't see it coming."

Roethlisberger also said people have it wrong about his relationship with Arians. Yes, he said, they were and remain friends, but they had their disagreements and arguments, just out of the public eye.

"People made such a big deal about, 'I had it too easy because we were friends,' or whatever. I think anybody in sports should understand, you and your position coach should have a good relationship. Now, if you're buddy-buddy with the head coach, that might be a little issue. You should, as a quarterback, with the guy you work with every day, you should have a relationship with him even outside of football because if we just talked every day about football, you'd go nuts and kill each other.

"To have a relationship is good because he is your buffer to the head coach and to work so closely with someone is how you develop a relationship.

"What we do behind closed doors, that's when I get yelled at. People think I've never been yelled at by B.A., never been chewed out and cussed out and had stuff thrown at me. That's happened quite a few times. I've seen a water bottle come flying."

Roethlisberger said he had similarly close relationships with all his quarterbacks coaches. He would like to have one with Haley, and he has been trying to reach former Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner to talk about him.

As with Rooney, he will have questions for Haley when he finally gets to meet him: "What is your thought for me, what is your thought for this offense, the direction you want to go, are you changing the offense, are you not changing the offense?"

At first, Roethlisberger thought it was strange that the Steelers would hire someone known for his pass-heavy offense in Arizona. Like many, he was unaware that Haley coached the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense in Kansas City in 2010.

"Maybe it's about personnel, maybe he does it off of who he has -- does he have a running team, a passing team? I know in Arizona he had some unbelievable weapons. Maybe it's just about who he has."

And maybe he will find out when Haley finally gets around to meeting the guy who will run that offense.

First Published February 10, 2012 5:00 AM


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