Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers reached a new precipice in their offensive ascent, producing among the very best seasons on that side of the ball in the history of the franchise. But the rise didn’t come spontaneously. It was very much a byproduct of the strengthening bonds between offensive coordinator Todd Haley, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and the rest of the unit.
Unsurprisingly, a number of franchise records and assorted firsts came with the territory of producing such a comparatively high-octane offense, as Roethlisberger became the first quarterback in team history to lead the league in passing yardage en route to setting or tying new franchise marks in attempts, completions, completion percentage, yardage, touchdowns, and interception rate.
The Pro Bowl performance from the quarterback positions was complemented by All-Pro campaigns from running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and center Maurkice Pouncey. And for an encore, Roethlisberger is looking to up the ante, setting the season goal of reaching an average of 30 points per game.
In order to do so, the offense and Haley must be on the same page, and the veteran quarterback is confident that they are. Forged from a tumultuous beginning after the unceremonious parting of ways with Bruce Arians, Roethlisberger yesterday told Ed Bouchette that his relationship with Haley is now reaching a similar level of comfort and fraternization.
Things have certainly come a long way from the Rosetta Stone days of 2012, which is how Roethlisberger referred to Haley’s new offensive vocabulary during the inaugural collaboration. What was big for the 12th-year veteran, he said, was Haley’s ability to approach the system without ego, and to make it about the Steelers’ offense, not Haley’s offense.
He recalls that Haley was active in getting everybody to contribute in the offense from the outset, even while Roethlisberger himself may have been somewhat resistant, and hesitant to fully buy in to the new, collaborative philosophy.
But Haley did his part to bridge the gap, incorporating carryover play-calls and hand signals that Roethlisberger and other members of the offense favored and relied upon from the previous system. And the quarterback has learned how better to pick his spots for improvisation while still remaining within that foundation.
The reputation that followed Haley to Pittsburgh has certainly eroded over time, especially after the tangible improvement of last season. the former head coach was regarded as somewhat of a hothead who was controlling and difficult to work with, but that seems to be far from the truth based on all public cues on the matter.
As Roethlisberger pointed out to Bouchette, there’s simply no way that a toxic dynamic between play caller and passer could be able to produce, let alone sustain, the success that we saw last year.
It’s now reached a point that it has become a bit ridiculous that we could still be talking about the relationship between Roethlisberger and Haley in desperate search of chinks in the armor. But as long as the questions continue to get asked, they will be met with answers, including those provided on the field.