The great Lynn Swann said it best this past week when he was asked about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his statement made at the Pro Bowl that he was going to sit down with Art Rooney II to find out which direction the offense was going to go now. Swann said,” The last time I checked, he was a paid employee of the team.” He later followed that up by saying, “I don\’t think you question an organization that\’s had the consistency and success the Steelers have had.” Now that Todd Haley is expected to be officially named the new offensive coordinator sometime this week, we will see just how much Big Ben likes being just a paid employee.
Some of the biggest justified criticism that Arians received while he was the Steelers offensive coordinator was that he was too buddy-buddy with Roethlisberger and did not get in his face enough. That will not be a problem with the notoriously abrasive Haley, who has had several in-your-face type moments over the last several years, most noticeably with wide receiver Anquan Boldin and quarterback Kurt Warner when all were with the Arizona Cardinals and just this past season with quarterback Matt Cassel with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Boldin incident came in the 2008-2009 NFC Championship game when Boldin was pulled out of a personnel grouping and got upset about it. So much so that he stormed off the field and did not take part in the post game celebrations following the win against the Philadelphia Eagles. That same game Warner was seen having a fiery discussion or two with Haley as well. Warner and Haley had quite a few of those disagreements in their two seasons together in Arizona and that too has been well documented.
The Cassel incident came after a designed screen play failed to develop, and the Chief quarterback decided to spike the ball into the ground. It was a third-and-goal play and it prompted Haley to have words with Cassel which resulted in the two needing to be separated. Cassel later admitted that he responds well when he is pushed and we are sure to see if Roethlisberger the employee responds the same way. If I am Ben, I make sure that the audio in my helmet has a volume button or he is sure to have his eardrums blown out a few times. I also hope that Ben knows the seven words you can never say on television, as he will hear those quite a bit starting this spring.
Quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner, who I was personally hoping would get promoted, will now have the job of being the mediator early on and I doubt he will have much say in what Haley puts together for a game plan, at least early on. Fichtner is also regarded as one that might be too close to Roethlisberger, so for now you can bet his job will be to just pass on what Haley wants done and work more as a Roethlisberger sounding board initially. At least that is my assessment.
Enough about how this effects Roethlisberger, let\’s talk about the other players on offense. Expect Haley to be in the face of the Bugatti Boys as well. Mike Wallace will be schooled on catching the ball more with his hands and running more precise routes, while Antonio Brown will certainly get a few earfuls when he misses his hot reads and runs those first few routes wrong. I could name a few others on offense as well that are sure to be in for something they have not seen before, but you get the point.
If you thought Arians had ego, and what offensive coordinator doesn\’t, you have not seen anything when it come to Haley. Wait until you see him after he gets questioned about a play call. I have seem him call plays in situations where it looked like he was trying to prove a point to someone that he can do as he damn well pleases. In my opinion I think this led to several of his “discussions” with Warner. He is fiery and he is arrogant.
One thing that I do know, is that there will be no grace period for Haley, nor should there be. Just like Arians was criticized for not getting enough out of the talent on the roster, so too should Haley and Mike Tomlin as well. Like Tomlin says, “the standard is the standard.” Although if Haley were to use that phrase it would be, “the standard is the mother f***ing standard!!!”
Personally I think offensive coordinators take far too much abuse from the fan base, the only exception I make to that is new St. Louis Rams and former New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Talk about riding a last name. I could certainly feel the pain of the Jets fans the last several seasons. In general I think most offensive coordinators are qualified and think that not enough is made of the execution of the plays that are called. We live in a Madden world now though and everyone is an offensive coordinator and they only like plays that work. Imagine that!? Either you get it done or you don\’t and often times it comes down to the quality of players you have on a roster and how they are coached. The Steelers draft well and build from within and we have seen this so much that we have become spoiled by it. Coaches and players have come and gone, and yet the consistency usually remains, just like Swann said this past week.
I have been asked several times today on Twitter today how I feel about Haley getting the job. Would he have been my first choice? No, and I have made that clear all along. There were not many names though that I considered “real fits” in my opinion and Haley was the last of five on my list I put out right after it was announced Arians would not be back in 2012. These were obvious from the get-go and all of the names reportedly had the interest of Tomlin and/or Rooney II. So I guess I can say they settled on a guy on my list. Am I ready to scream at the top of my lungs that this is a bad hire? Absolutely not. It just is not the way I personally would have went. It doesn\’t mean it was a bad hire. Only time will tell as far as that goes. I hate to break this news to you as well, but Haley will not be the last offensive coordinator the Steelers have in the history of the franchise. So sooner or later the future “Fire Haley!” tweeters will likely get their wish.
One person on Twitter let me know today that he was becoming a Steelers fan after being a Chiefs fan since the age of 10 due to the hiring of Haley. I found that hard to wrap my brain around. I might not 100% like a player the Steelers drafted over the years or a coach they have hired in the past, cough, cough, Ray Sherman, but I could not imagine abandoning my allegiance to the Steelers because of it. That is just crazy in my opinion.
The only drawback I really can see with this hiring is the personality of Roethlisberger mixing with that of Haley. Despite his two Super Bowl championships and three Super Bowl appearances, Ben still continues to try to play the disrespected card. It\’s painfully obvious. He is about to get disrespected for real now from a member of his own coaching staff and it will be interesting to see him make the change from franchise quarterback back to Steelers employee. Haley claims that he encourages players to get back in his face when they have disagreements and that is really something we haven\’t seen from Roethlisberger since he was drafted. Cassel claims he responded well to being pushed, we shall see if Roethlisberger does as well.
Rooney II claimed after the season ended that Roethlisberger needs to “tweak” his game. Now that Haley is on board, let the mother f***ing tweaking begin via the Haley, fire and brimstone style.