Tomlin: Decisions to replace Arians, hire Haley were his
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Taking questions from reporters today for the first time since Jan. 9, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was adamant that it was his decision to let Bruce Arians go as offensive coordinator and then hire Todd Haley to replace him.
"I thought that it was time for change," Tomlin said this morning, speaking about the subject publicly for the first time. "We're moving into a situation here where we have an opportunity to grow and develop some young talent offensively. It's awesome to have an opportunity to maybe have the division of some common opponents -- people who are comfortable with how you play football -- get uncomfortable. That's what's going to happen to us this year. We're excited about that.
"More than anything, I'm not going to apologize for change. That's football. I think all of us in this industry understand that, and our intentions are that it changed for the better."
The Steelers announced Jan. 20 that Arians had "retired." They announced Haley's hiring Feb. 7.
Arians agreed to join the coaching staff of the Indianapolis Colts a little more than a week after leaving the Steelers.
Tomlin stated emphatically that both decisions were his, that neither came at the behest of Steelers president Art Rooney II.
"He didn't," Tomlin said of Rooney having influence in Arians leaving. "I don't know where some of these perceptions come from. I don't break my neck to try to combat them in any way. I don't know where they come from.
"And I hired Todd Haley as well, which is your next question, which is another funny one to me. And don't get me wrong, of course, Art Rooney owns the football team, he can do what he wants to do, but those directives did not happen."
Tomlin held a press conference the day after the Steelers lost a playoff game in Denver Jan. 8 and has been mostly silent since then in public.
He made a few remarks when Haley was introduced at a press conference but took no questions. He also has been interviewed on Steelers.com, the team's website, about some matters.
During the nearly hour-long interview at an AFC coaches breakfast as part of the NFL meetings, Tomlin touched on a number of different topics, nearly all of them for the first time:
• He expects Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to have a good relationship.
"I'm not worried ... I don't anticipate any issues. I anticipate both guys getting along great."
• While he likes the "men" behind the injured Rashard Mendenhall at running back, "I'm sure we're going to get a running back in some form or fashion" in free agency or the draft.
• Haley's new playbook will include new nomenclature the players and coaches must learn and maybe a fullback, but there will be no overhaul in the blocking schemes.
"It's been fun. Todd is very flexible, he's very sound in his approach. We've had awesome discussions in terms of building it ... We're going to build our attack around the strengths of our men.
"Obviously Ben is a talented guy, we've got some talented receivers, we've got an interesting group of running back prospects, we're putting together an offensive line. So we're laying down the fundamental basis of how we'll approach it, what's going to be us regardless of circumstance."
• The Steelers want to acquire "a young quarterback in some form or fashion" but they are not looking to groom someone for the day when Roethlisberger leaves.
• He was blunt on the ability of both wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tackle Willie Colon to remain healthy for longer periods. Colon has missed all but one game of the past two seasons with achilles and arm injuries. Sanders has had several surgeries on his feet and a knee, including a post-season foot operation.
"You can't anticipate it's going to stop," he said of Sanders' injuries, although maintaining he is on track to recover from his latest surgery. "The same could be said for Willie Colon."
• He equated Rooney's statement that Roethlisberger needs to "tweak" his game as merely for him to "evolve." He said he does not think Roethlisberger's ability to maneuver in and out of the pocket has been diminished at age 30.
• Three draft prospects, besides those from Pitt, have made official visits to the Steelers: Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Florida International WR T.Y. Hilton and Cincinnati DL Derek Wolfe.
• The formal workouts with players will begin April 16, as provided for in the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement, which has reduced the number of spring practices (OTAs) from 14 to 10, plus a three-day minicamp. OTAs will start May 22 and the spring practices will end with minicamp May 12-14.
• He has not thought about whether a team will sign Mike Wallace or not as a restricted free agent. They have until April 20 to do so and the Steelers have the right to match it and keep him.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it -- if we come to it."
• Tomlin continued to report upbeat progress on Kirby Wilson, who was severely burned in a kitchen fire Jan. 6. Wilson left the hospital more than a week ago and is "attacking rehab." Tomlin expects him to return to his staff as running backs coach this year.
• Nose tackle Casey Hampton could open the season on the physically unable to perform list, and if that's the case, Tomlin said Steve McLendon is starter capable and Ziggy Hood would be a possibility, as would someone else who might be signed or drafted.
Tomlin said the team is approaching the situation as if Hampton will play.
First Published March 27, 2012 10:29 am