Haley: Steelers scheme will be built to succeed, score
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Todd Haley wasted little time assuring everyone that the Steelers offense he will run will do whatever is necessary to win.
If that means throwing the ball like he did when he was the offensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals, fine. If that means running the ball like he did in 2 1/2 seasons as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, that's fine, too.
But, after saying there is "a lot of carry over" and similar terminology from the offense Bruce Arians ran, Haley made it clear at his introductory news conference Thursday that he is not merely taking the wheel and letting the Steelers offense operate the way it has been accustomed.
"We're going to start with a clean slate and what gives us the best possible chance to succeed and score a lot of points," Haley said.
And Haley, 44, does not seem the least bit worried about working with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had a close relationship with Arians and was upset when Arians' contract was not renewed. Nor is Haley concerned the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback might be resistant to some of the changes in the offense.
Haley, who grew up in Upper St. Clair, has been at the Steelers facility since Monday, when his hiring was announced. But he still has not met with Roethlisberger, even though Roethlisberger was in the building nearly right up to the time of Haley's noon news conference.
"Transition will always be, I don't want to say difficult, because I don't know how we could determine that right now; it's just starting," Haley said. "There is an uncomfortable aspect to newness, but that's not always a bad thing. I think it will be a great thing in this case. I am sure [Roethlisberger] will figure out we are trying to make him as good as he can possibly be. Not many players that I know of have ever had an issue with that."
Haley and former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell were the only known candidates to visit the Steelers and interview for the position.
The Steelers discussed internally the possibility of quarterback coach Randy Fichtner and offensive line coach Sean Kugler splitting the offensive coordinator's duties -- with Fichtner in charge of the passing game and Kugler responsible for the running game. That arrangement would last until running back coach Kirby Wilson -- considered the heir apparent to Arians -- could return from the severe burns he suffered in a fire at his home.
But there is no certainty about if or when Wilson will return.
"He clearly brings intangibles we really value," coach Mike Tomlin said of Haley. "I talked to a lot of people and did a lot of research, and I was impressed by his resume but also his love for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was really unique to me."
Tomlin said the transition to Haley's offense is "going to be a challenge." But, he added, "We find pleasure in that being a mystery."
Haley was brought in to help an offense that had a 4,000-yard quarterback and two 1,000-yard receivers score more points (they ranked 21st in the NFL in 2011).
But the Steelers also are hoping he will help Roethlisberger "tweak" his game -- the words of team president Art Rooney II -- and, hopefully, eliminate some of the pounding he absorbs as he enters his ninth NFL season.
Curiously, the Chiefs were the lowest-scoring team in the AFC and second-lowest in the NFL in 2011, managing just 218 points. The Chiefs, however, had many key injuries, including losing top running back Jamal Charles and quarterback Matt Cassel.
"There's a lot of talk about systems, offense and defense, and I believe you do what gives you the best chance to succeed," Haley said. "If the best chance to succeed is running 63 times a game, you run 63 times a game.
"I am going to do what gives our players the chance to be the best they can possibly be because, generally, when that is occurring, you are doing well enough. I am not a statistics guy as far as end-of-the-year stats, but I want to protect the football and score points."
Haley has a reputation as a coach who is not afraid to get in a player's face and scream at him -- a tag that followed him from Arizona to Kansas City. But he is not worried it will have an adverse effect on his players, even Roethlisberger.
Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who won two league MVPs and a Super Bowl MVP before he went to Arizona, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Monday he was perfectly OK with Haley screaming at him on the sideline. He said all his former offensive coordinator was doing was trying to make him a better player.
"One of the first things I will say to these guys is we aren't going to be into a lot of sensitivity," Haley said. "If you are sensitive, this is probably not the best place to be. But I have to adhere to it, too. I dish it out, but I have to take it.
"This is a passionate, emotional game, and you watch the playoffs, and everybody is a little different. It is about the end result, and these guys really appreciate that. If they know you have their goals in mind, and they all want to be great players, as good as they can possibly be, once they figure out that that is what you care about, it is a non-issue, generally."
Haley has bloodlines with the Steelers because his dad, Dick, was the team's personnel director from 1971-90. He also had a chance to become the team's receivers coach for Bill Cowher in 2004, but he declined the offer to become an assistant coach under Bill Parcells with the Dallas Cowboys.
"All my early memories in life somehow revolved around the Steelers," Haley said. "My earliest memory was watching the Immaculate Reception. Those things have stayed with me, and they are a big part of who and what I am.
"In my mind, this is the greatest organization and the greatest team in the NFL.
"And that comes from the heart."
First Published February 10, 2012 12:00 am