Colbert: Big changes unlikely for Steelers under Haley
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Ben Roethlisberger likely doesn't have to worry that the Steelers offense could be set back two or three years if new offensive coordinator Todd Haley implements changes.
General manager Kevin Colbert said it is difficult and not very practical for a coordinator to make wholesale changes when the team has been largely successful.
He equated Haley's arrival to when Mike Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher as head coach in 2007 and inherited one of the best defenses in the league.
"I think any coach coming into a situation, just as Mike did when we were a 3-4 team, he looked at what we did and how we did it and decided maybe he wants to add his personal touches," Colbert said. "But, for the most part, [the defense] hasn't changed.
"So, it's hard to come in and drastically change your philosophy because of the group of players that you have. You can't overhaul a whole roster. Nor are we looking to because this group of players has been very successful."
Roethlisberger passed for more than 4,000 yards, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown each had more than 1,000 yards receiving, and the Steelers had their best rushing average (4.4 yards) in the past 10 years last season. But they finished 21st in the NFL in scoring -- a point of contention with team president Art Rooney II that helped facilitate the departure of previous offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Roethlisberger said Haley's arrival could set back the offense back "two or three years" if the terminology and philosophy are drastically changed.
"He'll learn what we have," Colbert said of Haley. "We'll learn what he's kind of thinking about and looking for, and we'll try to keep progressing."
The Steelers are expected to part ways with Dennis Dixon, who primarily has been the No. 3 quarterback since he was picked in the fifth round of the '08 draft.
Several of Dixon's teammates have said he wants to go a team where he will at least be the No. 2 quarterback -- something that does not appear likely if the Steelers re-sign veterans Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich, or both.
And Colbert sounded as if Dixon does not fit into their plans as Roethlisberger's top backup, even though he has started more games (3) than Leftwich (none) in three seasons. Dixon is an unrestricted free agent.
"Being a young quarterback, I anticipate Dennis will [look elsewhere], and I anticipate Dennis will have a lot of interest around the league," Colbert said.
"I don't think the league has seen the best of Dennis Dixon, only because he's behind a great quarterback and he's been held back by some injuries. Even coming into the league, he was behind the eight ball, coming in with the knee injury."
The Cleveland Browns not only have two picks in the first round (Nos. 4 and 22), but they also have three of the top 36 picks in the draft.
The Browns might have to move up a spot or two if they want Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner. But they seem receptive to the idea of using their picks to move around in the first round.
"We're willing," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "With two first-round picks, we have flexibility. We can just stand pat and take two really fine players, guys that we would hope to be starters for us. Having two first-round picks, you have flexibility if you want to do something."
Several members of the national media asked Colbert about the style of play exhibited by outside linebacker James Harrison, who has been fined numerous times by the league for illegal hits.
One of the questions was from a Cleveland-based writer who remembered the hit in a December game that knocked out Browns quarterback Colt McCoy and gave him a season-ending concussion.
Colbert was asked if the team had reached a "breaking point" with their four-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
"No. Absolutely not," Colbert said. "James Harrison is a great player. He tries to play within the rules. Sometimes, the penalty is unavoidable, and he ends up getting a suspension out of it. He served his time. We've all moved on.
"We know James Harrison plays the game very hard. He plays it within the rules the best he can. Sometimes, circumstances happen in the course of a game, and you have to live with the consequences. But in no way are we ever going to be disappointed with that player."
Asked if Harrison is treated fairly by the NFL, Colbert said: "He's treated within the rules. The rules are the rules. We all have to abide by them and follow them. We try to do that. Again, sometimes circumstances lead you outside of it. But if it's not intentional, I don't have any problem with the player. And I know it's not intentional."
First Published February 25, 2012 12:00 am