Screen passes in Haley plan
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley drops back to pass during drills at training camp.
Rookie David DeCastro will remain the Steelers' starting right guard.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley alongside head coach Mike Tomlin looking over the new offense during afternoon workouts at training camp.
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After one preseason game, it is apparent Todd Haley wants to bring back a lost art to the Steelers offense:
The screen pass.
While four-wide receiver formations and vertical passes were nowhere to be found Thursday in Philadelphia, Haley wanted to be sure to emphasize a lot of screen passes to running backs -- beginning with the first pass play to Isaac Redman and carrying right on through to a touchdown pass to rookie Chris Rainey.
"We got a bunch of different screens -- that's been an emphasis for us," said Haley, the team's new offensive coordinator. "We want to get a bunch of them called in real action and see if we can't get pretty efficient at them because it can be a real weapon."
Do not worry.
The offense that had a 4,000-yard quarterback and two 1,000-yard receivers in 2011 is not transitioning to a West Coast-style, dink-and-dunk attack, even though it appeared that way against the Eagles.
Haley said it is all part of a plan to emphasize certain parts of the offense in each preseason game, the idea being to bring it all together for the start of the regular season.
"Not a lot of game planning will go into these games," Haley said. "We've decided we're going to stay in training-camp mode because you need every day you can get with some of the [practice] limitations you have these days. We'll be focusing and emphasizing certain things in these games and trying to get better at them.
"We were pretty limited with our formations, but out of those formations we had multiple things we were doing or trying to do. There will be little more to it than that, generally speaking."
Haley said he kept the offense pretty basic and did not put in a game plan against the Eagles because the Steelers will play them again in the regular season. He said he used approximately six different run formations and probably 10-12 different pass formations in that game.
But, when the Steelers play the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night at Heinz Field, Haley said he will put in some form of game plan to get his players acclimated to what they can expect from him in the regular season.
"We'll grow a little bit each week and it will get closer to a real game week," Haley said. "Last week we didn't have game-plan books but this week we'll have a little more than that to get them a little more idea of how well to handle it in season.
Then he added, "You have to worry about yourself first and make sure, No. 1, you can evaluate the guys, that you're not doing too much so guys who aren't getting a ton of reps, you can look at them and decide where they fit. That's first and foremost. Second, you work on things we're going to do as a team and get efficient at those things, whether it's run or pass."
Haley's point: Don't be alarmed that Ben Roethlisberger completed 7 of 8 passes for only 49 yards and never looked downfield on the first series. That's not indicative of the way the Steelers will play. Rather, he was more satisfied to see the offense -- with different groups of players -- score on three of the first four possessions.
"It was a good start, especially with the first couple groups as far as doing some of the things we haven't done a bunch of and doing them in a game," Haley said. "That's not meaning that's the way we're going to play fulltime, but it's there."
It did not take long for rookie guard David DeCastro to move into the starting lineup on a permanent basis.
DeCastro, the team's No. 1 pick, played so well in his preseason debut against the Eagles that it appears he will remain at right guard with the first-team offense.
DeCastro started against the Eagles because Ramon Foster had to move from right guard to left guard to replace injured Willie Colon. But when Colon returned to practice Saturday, DeCastro stayed at right guard and Foster moved to right tackle because of the injury to Mike Adams.
"David did a lot of good things in the run and pass game and had a pretty solid first night," Haley said.
"It felt all right," DeCastro said about his first game. "I was off to a good start. You try not to get too nervous. You try to have fun and enjoy it.
"Obviously, there are nerves and a little bit of butterflies, but you don't want to be too nervous because you end up doing things you're not supposed to do."
The Steelers signed veteran tight end Justin Peelle to a one-year deal to replace injured tight end/fullback David Johnson, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee against the Eagles.
Johnson, who signed a one-year tender in the offseason, was waived injured.
Peelle (6-4, 251), 33, played in 14 games in 2011 for the San Francisco 49ers, including the December victory against the Steelers. He had one catch.
The players had Monday off and will resume practice at 2:55 p.m. today at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. The session is open to the public.
• Preseason game 2: Colts vs. Steelers, 8 p.m.
• Where: Heinz Field.
• TV: WPXI.
First Published August 14, 2012 12:00 am