Can Steelers' OC Get World Off His Back?
This story originally published on SteelCityInsider.net
Todd Haley in opener (Bridge/USA TODAY Sports)
Todd Haley in opener (Bridge/USA TODAY Sports)
SteelCityInsider.net
Posted Sep 22, 2013


It was the answer to the last question posed to Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley this week: "I'm not happy with anything right now," said Haley.

And tonight the Steelers' offensive coordinator has the distinct displeasure of pitting his anemic offense against the 2-0 Chicago Bears and their veteran and ever-opportunistic defense.

Haley can't be happy with the Steelers' season thus far: 2 touchdowns, a 2.4 yards-per-rush average, and the 31st ranking in total offense through the first two losses.

He's also on the public hot seat. A week after he was grilled by media over a confrontation with an annoying autograph hound in a hotel bar, Haley was grilled again this week over a confrontation with an annoying wide receiver on the sideline in Cincinnati.

Both alleged confrontations turned out to be more hype than substance, but it's obvious that the fans and media in Pittsburgh are hot on Haley's heels over his unit's failings ever since Ben Roethlisberger was injured exactly halfway through Haley's tenure with the Steelers.

The first half went much smoother. Last year, in the Nov. 8 edition of the Post-Gazette, a reporter wrote that "Ben Roethlisberger not only is having a Pro Bowl season, he's having a possible MVP season." Three days later, the same reporter wrote the following:

"What many believed might be a difficult transition season for Roethlisberger under a new coordinator and a new offense has been among his best. ... This year, he has elevated his overall game in subtle ways -- the ways Haley has asked of him."

In the first eight games with Haley, Roethlisberger had a 16-4 touchdown-interception ratio, a 101.1 passer rating and led the NFL with a third-down passer rating of 121.2.

But Roethlisberger got hurt in the next game, the ninth game of 2012, and missed the next three games. When he came back, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Adams were out with injuries, and the next week Willie Colon went down. The following week it was Mike Wallace who was injured, and missing the final game were Antonio Brown and Heath Miller.

Wallace and Mendenhall left in the off-season, Miller continued to rehabilitate, Mendenhall's second-round replacement, Le'Veon Bell got hurt, and center Maurkice Pouncey went down for the season.

After being lauded for his help in the the Steelers' 6-3 record in the first half of his tenure, Haley is being lambasted for a 2-7 record in an injury-ravaged second half.

But some of the injured players are coming back. Miller is expected to play tonight and Bell might return next week. Somehow the Steelers need to steal a win from the Bears until those two playmakers are back to full health.

"We are frustrated," Haley said on Thursday. "We’ve had a good couple of days, a good day of preparation on Tuesday. That’s the bottom line, figure out how to get to 1-2. From there, you try to move forward. It’s the NFL."

Haley said the biggest problems have been four turnovers and a running game that can't set up the play-action passing game or first downs. The Steelers are 30th in the NFL with a 28 percent conversion rate.

"Our last game, our first eight third downs were all seven (yards) or longer," Haley said. "That’s going to be a rough day, whatever is happening. We need to be better on first and second down, whether we are running it or throwing it."

Miller will help. Even if his speed's only 70 percent, his hands are still 100 percent. Felix Jones also figures to see more time in the backfield after gaining 37 yards on 10 first-half carries last Monday. Jones didn't carry in the second half.

And there's also Brown, the allegedly sulking receiver who instead said that he's not unhappy with Haley.

"Not at all," Brown said. "Over the course of this business you’ve got to remain positive. Any negative energy can diffuse your play. Would I like (the ball) more? Absolutely. But sometimes you have to let the game come to you and allow things to play out."

So, Brown is NOT unhappy.

What about Haley?

He's tried a run-heavy attack and he's tried a pass-happy approach.

"I’m not happy with anything right now."

Oh. Right.


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