One of the questions that I have been mulling over during the course of the past few weeks has been about what exactly the future of Todd Haley as offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers was truly tied to. By most measures, his tenure in that role oversaw the most successful period of offensive football in recent team history.
Now that it has been made official that the team is moving on without Haley, whose contract has expired, and the Steelers are expected to name quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner into that role, I’ve been going back to the thought that has continually run through my head: would the team have kept Haley if they did not have a replacement groomed on-staff in Fichtner?
The scoring had gone up under Haley. The yards had gone up. The efficiency had gone up. Most importantly, the protection of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had gone up, and that had a lot to do with nurturing bad habits out of the veteran, to which he seemed resistant.
Haley’s tenure with the Steelers was an important one because it helped to reshape their offensive identity away from a philosophy that was not working efficiently and seemed to reach a dead end; most importantly, it was an unsustainable brand of football that was injurious to its most crucial component.
Fichtner taking over just makes all kinds of sense, if not Haley, and one has to imagine that by far the primary, if not only, reason that he is not being brought back to retain his post is because of personal relationship matters.
But promoting Fichtner allows the team to carry over what worked well under Haley, perhaps with the opportunity to offer some adjustments and additions, while doing so with a face that will appease the majority, at least, of the offense.
Unlike when Haley was brought in, there will be no new terminology to learn, nor will there be a radical shift in what the offense wants to do. There will be visible differences, for sure, which is only natural when you change who is calling the plays, but the bulk of what we see will be familiar.
Another change that we might see is greater authority for Roethlisberger over the offense that he runs. While he has always had some level of control and input in what they run, I just have a sense that he will have even greater say than before, perhaps with more usage of the no-huddle offense.
I would like to offer an observation that I shared a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about Fichtner last. Something that I spend a lot of time doing going through games is looking through not just the game tape, but also the breaks in between plays to identify strong images to use for articles.
Over the course of this season, this has inadvertently led me to realize that Fichtner’s influence already goes far beyond the quarterbacks. When visible on the sidelines, he is frequently seen talking to or giving instructions to members of other position groups. His role on this team already expands beyond his current title. He won’t be a fish out of water.