Before the last few weeks, when Pittsburgh Steelers fans would mention the name Todd Haley, it would usually follow with expletives and calls for his job. As of late though, you are more likely to hear praise about the third-year offensive coordinator than ever before.
This is because the Steelers have developed into one of the best offenses in the league, ranking top-five in most offensive categories. Some could say that the elite-play of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are the causes of Haley’s new-found success. However, all three of them had played at a similar level, even before week 7. Therefore, it could be assessed that the success of Haley comes from a new wrinkle added to the offense, specifically, rookie Martavis Bryant.
The 22 year-old Bryant has been solid boost for the Steelers offense. So far this season, he has caught 25 passes for 528 yards and 7 touchdowns. While his numbers have been very adequate, those alone don’t explain the impact of Bryant. The real impacts of Bryant are his red zone abilities and deep threat ability down the field. Bryant also gives Roethlisberger that extra option in the red zone as four of Bryant’s seven touchdowns have come in that area of the field.
In terms of his deep threat ability, Bryant has an average yards per-reception of 21.6, meaning most of his receptions have come outside of the quick, short passing game that Haley’s system is based around. The real impact though, comes with the targets. Bryant averages four or more targets per game and these targets mostly come off balls thrown more than ten yards down the field. Bryant’s targets help by keeping the defense honest, forcing them to keep their safeties back and not cheat up on the receivers. Furthermore, this also opens up the middle of the field for slants, crosses and other timing routes which is the heart of Haley’s scheme.
While Bryant is hardly the only reason why Haley’s offense has been successful this season, he may be the piece that Haley needed to finally find success with the Steelers on the field.