While much has been made (or more accurately, presumed) about the relationship that existed between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, whatever failings that existed in their interpersonal dynamic pale in comparison to that which existed between Haley and the fan base of the team.
Of course, it’s pretty much always the case that the most hated person in any football franchise is its offensive coordinator. If you poll the fan base of most franchises, I would not be surprised if offensive playcalling is routinely cited as one of the biggest problems.
So either there is simply a dearth of offensive minds worthy of wielding control of NFL offenses, or it’s a much more complicated and difficult job than the casual fan is able to appreciate. Perhaps there is some truth in both sides of the equation.
But if we compare Haley’s tenure with those of his predecessors, then we should, I think, take a moment to appreciate some of the things that he did get right. And first and foremost, he helped to make it a priority to better protect their lifeblood, which is Roethlisberger.
That is not the same thing as saying that Haley has kept Roethlisberger free from injury. In fact, he has been injured a fair bit under this current offensive system. But those injuries have come about more in freak instances, and are not attributable to an accumulation of abuse game in and game out.
Roethlisberger has rarely played full seasons, however, in his career, and yet did so three times in Haley’s six years. He played all 16 games in 2013 and 2014, and this past season, he sat out the regular season finale only to rest.
The only other time in his career that he failed to miss a game due to injury in a season was in 2008, and, frankly, he was battered and bruised throughout that year. It was statistically one of the worst seasons of his career because he was injured so frequently and missed a great deal of practice time.
Aside from keeping the quarterback upright, of course, Haley also saw some of the most prolific offenses in team history under his watch, helping to author four of the six highest-scoring seasons in team history during his six-year span. Those came in the past four seasons, while the team spent his first two years in transition, on both offense and defense, posting .500 records.
While the red-zone success wavered from year to year—and was influenced pretty strongly in years in which Roethlisberger missed multiple games—the third-down success rate improved, the ball moved better down the field, and got out quicker as well.
Whatever comes next for the offense, if this is a stepping stone to something even better, then Haley does deserve some credit for getting the group to a place to be in that position. If the next level is on the horizon, then the Tequila Cowboy can ride off into the sunset knowing he helped get them there, even if he won’t get the praise from almost anybody.