The Pittsburgh Steelers recognized that they had to make a change at offensive coordinator in 2012. They ultimately brought in Todd Haley, former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and son of former longtime Steelers running backs coach Dick Haley, to take over, and he brought with him a new offense with new terminology.
Much was made at the time about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s relationship with him, right down to debating when they would first speak. By the time installation began in the summer, Roethlisberger flirted with some drama when he referred to Haley’s system as a “Rosetta Stone” offense, referencing the language-learning software.
While verbiage changes from system to system, for the most part, the plays do not, so one play can have many different names across the league. That’s just the natural process of learning a ‘new offense’. That’s what happened then, and that’s what’s happening now under Matt Canada.
At times, the players will have the ‘translate’ new names into their older, familiar names to understand. That’s something both Roethlisberger and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster discussed with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller yesterday on SiriusXM Radio, relating similar experiences.
“I’ve done it a few times to the receivers, like in a formation, but I’m still learning it, too. Like, I don’t know it well enough”, Roethlisberger said, when asked if he ever uses the old play names. “There are times, and I’ve told Matt this, I try not to say it out loud, but I’d be like, ‘oh shoot, what’s this new formation called?’. It’s the same formation I’ve run for 17 years, but it’s called something different”.
This is only the second major change in offensive system that Roethlisberger has experienced in his career since entering the NFL in 2004. It does take time to make that adjustment, and frankly, it shouldn’t be made nearly as much of a deal of as it likely will be. It’s an adjustment for everybody, and being able to reference the ‘old’ language is an asset in the learning process.
“That’s what’s cool, like when you’ve been with a quarterback so long and have that chemistry, there’s a new language and there’s old language”, Smith-Schuster said. “That’s pretty cool because we can look at each other and we have that chemistry where we have our own signs, our own language, and we can be like, ‘hey, lets do this, let’s do that’. And it’s so easy. We try not to do that as often because it’s a new offense, and we’re just trying to get everybody on the same page”.
They all know that, in time, they’re going to have to fully integrate into the new language. But that’s going to take time. You don’t learn to think in German overnight when your native language is English, whether you’re using Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, or any other language-learning program. You’ll have to translate into your ‘native language’ to grasp the concept for a while.
“I’ll be like, ‘JuJu, it’s old this’, I’ll tell him the old formation. It’s like, ‘Oh, I can’t keep doing that’”, Roethlisberger said of the tug and pull. “So it does happen sometimes, but I just hope that at some point this season it really just clicks for all, for me especially, but clicks for all of us that it’s just like the back of our hands”.
At some point this season, the Steelers are going to make a big play, and Roethlisberger or Smith-Schuster at the end of the game are going to say something like, they had to make a signal in order to get into a play they were familiar and comfortable with, and it’s going to be a much bigger deal than it should be. But at least it won’t be Todd Haley all over again.