“I’m happy being here and want to finish this year in the right manor to kind of push us in the offseason and get ready to get better next year.” – Todd Haley’s comments about coming back to the Steelers as OC in 2013. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The coaching carousel moves fast in the NFL. Just Monday seven head coaches were given the ax and the “hot lists” of replacements are changing everyday even as some are predicting not all firings are complete yet. Within the first two days following “Black Monday” former Eagles head coach Andy Reid surfaced as the leading candidate to replace former Steelers OC Ken Whisenhunt as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals (aka Steelers West). Within a day of those reports, Reid is all but reportedly inked his deal as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs instead. Now Arizona is left to fill the spot they ousted Whisenhunt from and are looking towards western Pennsylvania. Thursday the Cardinals requested permission from the Steelers to interview Todd Haley for their head coaching position and the Steelers obliged. Mostly because it seems Arizona just cannot help themselves but want everything and anyone that’s been through Pittsburgh. Granted, Haley has previously served as OC for the Cardinals but geez, these guys can’t get enough of the Burgh’s sloppy seconds can they? What could this mean to the Steelers?
As far as the internet is showing most yinzers are ready to pack Haley’s bags for him and start the car headed for Arizona. You can’t totally blame them. Even Tomlin in his final press conference of the season called the Steelers offensive troubles their “Achilles Heel” of the season. Furthermore when Tomlin was asked to evaluate his respective coordinators his description of Dick LeBeau was glowing compared to the comments made in regards to Haley. In response to the question of how he thought Haley performed in his first year as offensive coordinator of the Steelers Tomlin stated,
"“He was an 8-8 coordinator. Like I was an 8-8 head coach.”"
As much as most Steeler fans are hoping Haley jumps ship for the Cardinals, the Steelers offense in the beginning of the season was the strength of the team. It was the defense that was the initial Achilles ’ heel with 4th quarter collapses against Tennessee and Oakland but once the Steeler defense got their bearings and improved, the Steelers offense started to tank. Most of the tanking coincided with injuries, to be fair. Not only did the Steelers lose Ben Roethlisberger, but they also lost Mike Adams who had been instrumental in providing the blocking that allowed the rushing game to succeed for the few games that it did. Along with Adams, Willie Colon went on IR for the third straight season and last year’s team MVP Antonio Brown missed some games as well. When the Steelers offense was succeeding, time of possession and third down conversions were off the charts but when Ben returned to the lineup the wheels fell off and nothing was working. The main point is that at some point, Haley’s offense was very successful here in Pittsburgh. The derailing of the offense can be attributed to many things other than Haley himself.
No one was more criticized as an offensive coordinator than Bruce Arians. The dude couldn’t win for losing here. The whole damned town was ready to explode the next bubble screen that was called. But Ben loved him some BA. What Ben and other BA fans never liked to admit was the season before this one the Steelers were bottom of the barrel in red zone scoring and that was the major Achilles ’ heel of the season. I do believe the whole Bruce Arians to Todd Haley transition was handled very poorly by Art Rooney II. And now I think giving Arizona permission to interview Haley is making it even worse. Rooney has every right in the world to fire and hire a coordinator if he wants to, it’s his team. Masquerading the firing as a retirement was the first misstep and then it just snowballed from there with Tomlin feeling like he had to make a point to say he was in on the decision, and the whole Ben didn’t say hi to Haley drama went on from there. The fact is Haley was hired because he’s a proven coordinator who can get the best from the strengths of his players. Whether or not Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense “bought in” completely to the Haley offense remains to be seen but with the way they performed in the beginning of the season and then completely flipped the script in the second half of the season means that they were lacking one main thing and that’s consistency. You don’t get consistency by switching OC’s over and over again; just ask Kordell Stewart how that worked out. The Rooney’s don’t look very good by granting this permission, in my opinion. Give Haley more than one season at least in the hopes that you don’t have another season involving roughly 294 injured players and see if his offense can produce all that you hoped it could.
In the chance that Haley accepts a head coaching position elsewhere and the Steelers offense are left to fill the vacancies of coordinator and line coach what will that say for the 2013 season? The only bonus I can think of is that it might provide the opportunity for RB coach Kirby Wilson to be promoted to OC, as he was considered the main front runner to take over the OC position until he was involved in the house fire last season and had to undergo extensive therapy in order to return to work. I think the locker room would respond better to Wilson than it did to Haley and the continuity could turn out to be a moot point as it would be a promote-from-within position rather than installing an entirely new offense with entirely new terminology the team would need to learn for the second offseason in a row.
What are your thoughts, Steeler Nation? Would you like to see Haley return as OC for the Steelers or are you excited at the notion that he might be off to Pittsburgh West?
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