Steelers president Art Rooney II today called his team's 8-8 season "certainly frustrating" but strongly endorsed coach Mike Tomlin and first-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Rooney, meeting with a few reporters at the team's training facility this afternoon, said "I still have a high level of confidence in Mike" and that Haley did a good job with the offense in 2012.
Rooney noted that the new offense was right on pace through nine games for Ben Roethlisberger to have his most productive season and for him to achieve one goal of having much fewer sacks. But after injuries to his right shoulder and rib in the ninth game, Rooney noted that the offense lost its rhythm and failed to regain its momentum when he returned after missing three games.
"What we had was pretty good," Rooney said, describing the offense before his quarterback's injuries.
He added that the second year of a new offense should be better, and called Haley "a good young coach" who has opportunities, including his interview today for the Arizona Cardinals head coaching job.
He cited the large turnover differential as one reason his team did no better than .500 and lost so many close games. The Steelers ranked tied for 24th in the NFL with a minus-10 in turnover differential, losing the ball 30 times and coming up with only 20 takeaways.
As reasons, he said "focus is probably part of it" and that on defense the fewer sacks probably led to fewer turnovers. The Steelers managed just 37 quarterback sacks in 2012 and no one had more than six.
"We have to get more pressure on the quarterback," Rooney said. "Anybody will tell you that creates turnovers." He also said "our defensive backs have to be more ball aware."
Rooney said the team is in as tough a spot with the salary cap as it has been in recent years. Asked if estimates that they are $10 million over with only 30-some players signed, he said that was a low projection.
He would not talk about which players might go or stay or whether they will have enough to sign their own free agents such as Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall.
"As it stands today," Rooney said of the team's salary cap situation, "it doesn't all fit."
The Steelers lost 78 starts alone to injuries in 2012 and while Rooney noted that he believes they come in cycles, he said they will look into their training methods to try to determine if something needs to be changed.
Among other points during an 18-minute interview today:
• Dan Rooney had the "emeritus" removed from his title and is back again as Steelers chairman, a position he held before he became U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. He will essentially be involved in league matters and also advise his son on issues with their team.
• No decision yet, but the same throwback uniforms worn in 2012 for two games may be worn again in 2013.
• The expansion of Heinz Field will not take place in 2013 because the issue is tied up in the courts.
First Published January 9, 2013 8:45 PM