If there is one thing I might be most jealous of about the fact that I’m not a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers right now, it would have to be what I’m evidently missing out on when offensive coordinator Todd Haley visits the meeting room—or more specifically which footage he chooses to show the receivers from time to time.
Apparently, during his days as offensive coordinator for the Cardinals—the team that came within less than a minute of taking down the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII—he used to run routes with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, catching passes from quarterback Kurt Warner.
Haley, of course, also had a long background as a wide receivers coach before he cracked the coordinator, and then head coaching, ranks. But it’s probably not every position coach that actually runs the routes so that he understands what he is asking his players to do.
That is the anecdote that opens up an excellent article by Will Graves for the Associated Press published yesterday about his return to Kansas City, the organization that gave him the chance to lead a football team from the head coach position, before unceremoniously dismissing him midseason in a manner that seemed it might threaten to completely derail his coaching career.
But the formerly surly football mind has reinvented himself to a degree during his five years with the Steelers as their offensive coordinator. Which is not surprising, given his connections with Pittsburgh. You might recall that Haley grew up as a ball boy for the Steelers while his father, Dick Haley, served as Director of Player Personnel for 20 years from 1971 to 1990.
Fitzgerald and Boldin would critique Haley’s technique, fluidity, and speed on a weekly basis, amidst much laughter, during their film sessions back in Arizona. And these days, he still breaks out those tapes every so often to get the feedback from the likes of Antonio Brown.
“Todd thinks he’s one of us”, Graves quotes Brown as saying in the piece, writing that the receiver was “reveling in his long-held belief that Haley is a pass-catcher at heart”. Haley was never a football player himself. During his college days, he was on the golf team. Now he golfs with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
There is a lot of worthwhile information in the article, but the leading anecdote really caught my eye especially in providing a glimpse into the personality of Haley that we don’t often get to see—and that we sometimes are even led to believe doesn’t exist.
As is par for the course, Haley certainly has his many detractors, some of whom dislike him so much that they still want the Steelers to fire Bruce Arians—if you get that inside joke, you know you’ve been a reader here for a while—but he has been good for the Steelers, and the Steelers have been good for him, the way I see it.