The Pittsburgh Steelers spent the past six seasons remaking their offensive identity under outsider offensive coordinator Todd Haley, a former ball boy and the son of Dick Haley, the longtime Director of Player Personnel from 1971 to 1990.
The offense put up four of its six highest-scoring seasons in franchise history during that span. Ben Roethlisberger played the best football of his career during that span. Antonio Brown became the greatest wide receiver in the game today under Haley as well, and he helped nurture Le’Veon Bell into yet another elite talent.
He’s now the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.
So how did we get from there to here, exactly? There are plenty of sound theories, the leading being that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger preferred not to work with him any longer, especially when his friend and quarterbacks coach, Randy Fichtner, was ripe for the promotion to that role, which is exactly what happened.
I don’t think it would be accurate, however, to look back at the period under Haley as deficient. As mentioned, they were some of the most productive years the team ever had. Yes, they also had arguably the greatest ensemble of offensive talent they’ve ever had in their history as well, though Haley was responsible for helping to foster that.
As for the broader aspects of how Haley dealt with the team, I do think much of it has been exaggerated. Ramon Foster was asked during an interview on SiriusXM Radio if the team got along with him, and he said that they did.
“I thought Coach Haley did a good job”, he said. “Him not coming back—I don’t know the front office, what decisions were made. I just know we had really good offensive years behind Coach Haley. He’s a guy that’s worked his way up. He’s a guy that appreciates the game, too”.
During his final season coaching the Steelers, the offense sent seven players to the Pro Bowl, those being Roethlisberger, Brown, Bell, Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Roosevelt Nix. I believe that is a franchise-best for offensive players.
“The tension that media outlets reported on, that’s just something that you had to—it’s always good to report bad news—it didn’t affect us day-to-day”, Foster said, seeming to imply that there was some level of truth to Haley’s alleged attitude or temper, but that it was exaggerated, or at least not as big of a deal as it was made outside of the facility.
That is all water under the bridge now, of course, with the Steelers having chosen to move on with Fichtner, who is going to be keeping as much of the offense intact as possible, while also bringing back some older elements and introducing new ones.
Meanwhile, Haley embarks on his next adventure, which is to help resurrect the Browns, complete with virtually an entirely new offense, including a first-overall pick at quarterback, a Pro Bowl wide receiver, and notable additions at running back.