On the surface, it doesn’t seem as though Todd Haley fits in with the Steelers’ way of doing things. He’s a little too eccentric for a blue-collar team.
Haley is fiery and intense, but so is Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. That would seem to be a good thing, but don’t they say that opposites attract? This isn’t exactly yin and yang. Arians was much cooler and calmer — it’s possible that he and Dick LeBeau balanced out the energy of the staff with their milder manners.
His hot temper could have been a reason why Tomlin might not have wanted to hire Haley. He was happy with Arians, but Tomlin’s bosses weren’t. Why? I don’t know. Pittsburgh’s offense was solid year in and year out under Arians. The numbers weren’t off the charts in 2011, but they were still better than average despite having sub par talent in the backfield and on the offensive line.
Let’s face it — Arians was the scapegoat after a tragic end to the season. General manager Kevin Colbert has failed to improve a bad line in recent years, and Rashard Mendenhall isn’t the answer to the running game’s problems.
What’s strange about the decision to go with Haley is that Steelers president Art Rooney spoke last month about wanting to “shift the offense back toward its blue-collar identity of years past.” That, of course is a horrible idea in the modern NFL. With all due respect to Rooney, the Steelers would be better off if he were to let Colbert and Tomlin designate the identity of both the offense and defense. The emphasis on passing wasn’t the issue here.
The good news is that Haley, again, isn’t a blue-collar guy. And in Kansas City and Arizona, he did not run blue-collar offenses. He took heat for not giving home-run-hitting running back Jamaal Charles the ball enough in KC, and he didn’t even recognize the existence of his running backs while with the Cardinals. The Chiefs didn’t throw it a lot the last three years, but they still took more shots than I expected them to given the personnel on offense. And only the Saints had more pass attempts than the Cards during Haley’s two-year reign over the offense in Arizona.
Before that, he was in charge of receivers and passing games. He’s never dealt closely with backs or lines or anything related to the trenches.
People can change, but I don’t get the feeling Haley’s overly flexible when it comes to his offensive philosophy. With Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to work with, I’d imagine the balls will still be flying with Haley in charge in 2012.
So either Rooney stubbornly thinks an equally stubborn man can change, or he’s rethinking that blue-collar direction.
Which has us wondering how much of a role nostalgia played here. Did Rooney just step on his GM and head coach to give a job to a man with a history with the team? After all, Todd’s father Dick was the team’s director of player personnel in the 1970s and 1980s. And Todd Haley himself was a ball boy with the Steelers while growing up in Pittsburgh.
Hiring a guy as a courtesy isn’t something NFL teams can afford to do. It’s not clear what happened here, but Haley wouldn’t seem to suit this team if not for his Steel City background. On the bright side, he might have the aerial-oriented mind to make things work regardless.
The risk is that he might be irascible enough to rock the boat.