Steelers' offense faces first live test tonight
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley gives instruction to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during afternoon workouts at training camp.
Share with others:
PHILADELPHIA -- Todd Haley was going through some of the nuances and play-calling of the no-huddle offense on the practice field Tuesday morning and was about to call a play for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
But, before Haley could get the words out of his mouth, Roethlisberger called out the exact same play his coordinator had in mind.
"Those are good signs," Haley said. "And that's happened multiple times. Those are good signs that we're kind of thinking along the same lines. That's what has to occur. When that is occurring between play-caller and quarterback, those are usually good signs."
Haley and Roethlisberger are on the same page in one other regard, too: They each say the offense is evolving daily, with the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle starting to slowly come together to form some kind of big picture.
The evolution of the offense that Haley is installing in his first year as offensive coordinator will take a bigger step when the Steelers open their preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles at 7:30 p.m. today at Lincoln Financial Field.
Granted, it's only a preseason game, and neither team will game plan or unveil much more than their basic offensive and defensive approach. Nonetheless, it's the first time the Steelers will unveil some of their offensive approach under Haley.
And, for the first time in 22 years, the offense will be guided by a coordinator who wasn't with the team the year before. An outsider, if you will.
"It's very exciting," Haley said. "When you have a signal-caller like Ben who has won a lot of games, who's good at what he does and is in the prime of his career, and you know he can and will continue to get better, that's exciting itself."
Preseason games usually are not cause for much anticipation, at least, not among veteran players, especially a quarterback who has played in three Super Bowls and won two.
And Roethlisberger's appearance time against the Eagles will be brief -- no more than one or two series for the starters, said coach Mike Tomlin.
Still, there is a little different feeling for this game because it's the first time the players will get a feel for how Haley likes to call a game or how he reacts to what he sees on the field. Since Tomlin became coach in 2007, many of the players knew only one offensive coordinator -- Bruce Arians, who was the wide receivers coach for three years before he took over from Ken Whisenhunt.
"For me, it's different than usual because, normally, I wouldn't be as focused on it," Roethlisberger said. "But I am because it's something new. I want to really be focused on my plays, however many there are."
Said Haley: "It's a process. We're all feeling everyone out. That's the good thing about preseason and training camp.
"This is our first time going through a game together -- how we handle the days leading up to a game, how we handle the night before a game, the day of the game. There are a lot of intricacies going on that is a little different for everyone.
"But we're feeling our way through that. I've been through it before, and everyone appears on schedule."
While the dynamic between Roethlisberger and new coordinator is something that will be closely monitored during the regular season, Haley has other issues to resolve in the preseason. In no particular order, he has to judge the quality of the offensive line with two rookies -- David DeCastro and Mike Adams -- in the starting lineup; find a fifth receiver and maybe even a fourth (depending on what happens with Mike Wallace) from a group that has yet to produce a training-camp standout, and determine specific roles for running backs Baron Batch and rookie Chris Rainey, their fifth-round pick.
"Concern is probably too strong a word because we feel like we have a good nucleus of talent," Haley said, referring to the group of receivers after Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. "Mike [Wallace] is a difference-maker, and you can't have enough of those. I can't wait for him to be in here.
"But, from a depth standpoint, we're still kind of waiting. There have been some flashes, a couple guys who look like they're trying to get above the pack. Thursday we'll have a much clearer picture."
NOTES -- Tomlin said free-agent wide receivers Marquis Maze and David Gilreath will return kickoffs and punts after Rainey. ... Chris Carter, their fifth-round pick in '11, will make his first start at outside right linebacker because James Harrison (knee) and Jason Worilds (wrist) remain on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
• Game: Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles in preseason opener, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia.
• When: 7:30 p.m.
• TV: KDKA.
First Published August 9, 2012 12:00 am