While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the pessimistic side of the coin.
Question: Was it smart to extend offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s contract two more seasons?
After three seasons in Pittsburgh as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, Todd Haley helped navigated the offense to the franchise’s second-most prolific scoring display in history, supported largely by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s franchise record-tying 32 touchdown passes.
The offense ranked in the top 10 in scoring for once and sent four players to the Pro Bowl, including All-Pros running back Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, both of whom broke a number of franchise records with their own individual displays in 2014.
But how much credit does Haley get for this offense if it’s so littered with talent that is finally developing? Because one can easily make the argument that the Steelers have more talent on the offensive side of the ball than at any other point in Roethlisberger’s career.
The rebuilding process of the offensive line—which stayed relatively healthy for a change—coincided with the emergence of talent at the skill positions, which enabled Roethlisberger to just about maximize his talents.
But there were still glaring issues with the way the offense conducted itself after peeling back the layers and accounting for a couple of offensive explosions—such as the 12 touchdown passes in two games from Roethlisberger. That, of course, means that he only threw 20 touchdowns in the other 14.
One concern, for example, was the offense’s struggles on the road, even squeaking by with low-scoring victories against bad teams. Then there’s the fact that the offense failed to score more than 20 points in any of its last four games of the season, including the Wildcard loss.
By then, it seemed that opposing defenses were starting to get a handle on the offense, which started with bottling up Bell. Though the Steelers ended the regular season with four straight wins, the offense wasn’t looking at its best heading into the postseason, and they only wound up manufacturing 15 points in that loss.
This is not even to mention the struggles in the red zone. Many of the Steelers’ offensive issues that have been a perennial concern remain so, and Haley hasn’t fully addressed these problems. The Steelers like to renew contracts before the final season is expired, but a pessimist might want to see what Haley does with one more season before committing to a longer arrangement.