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A few minutes with Todd Haley

Posted Aug 1, 2012

Q. How is the team progressing in terms of learning the offense?
A. They’re getting more and more comfortable. It’s part of the process. This is their third time through, hearing it and processing it. It was clear from day one (at training camp) that everybody had taken what we said in the spring, studied it and stayed with it through their true offseason. That’s a good sign.

Q. Has there been an effort to establish a physical mentality during camp?
A. We didn’t have any real discussions about that. That’s just the way myself and our staff believe you’ve got to play football. We need to have this training camp as part of establishing identity. We want to be a team that most importantly can run it when we want to run it and throw it when we have to throw it. That’s the key to being a successful offense, because other than that you’re keeping the defense off base. If you can run it when they know you’re going to run it, successfully, and you can throw it when they know you’re going to throw, you have a chance to be real good. That’s what we’re working on.

Q. Were you trying to send a message by calling mostly running plays during the first team drill?
A. We start practice, generally, with a run-emphasis period. It’s what we’ll do. We definitely want more runs than passes in that. The passes are just to keep the defense honest. Otherwise, we’d run it on all of them. The rest of the way, you’ll see, generally, unless it’s a blitz period, you’ll see a balanced attack. As much as I can keep it equal, that’s the way I’ll do it because, ideally, that’s the way you’d like to play. You’ve got to practice both, because if you don’t practice both, you’re not giving each phase its due.

Q. Will you have to change the offense in any way if Mike Wallace does not report?
A. As I’ve said from the start, a lot of this process for me has been trying to figure out what each guy’s strengths and weaknesses are. I think that’s coaching, playing to their strengths and trying to stay away from weaknesses. To this point, we’ve coached and worked with the guys who are here. Wallace is a great player, and I’ve had experience on the other side of the ball with him, and I’m counting on him being here. Right now, I just have to really stay focused on who’s here and developing and getting everybody ready to go.

Q. Can Wallace grasp the playbook if he is not here, even though he has a copy of it?
A. I don’t know. I think each guy is probably a little different. I don’t know him well enough at this point to answer that or give a good answer.

Q. What do you like about the receiving corps?
A. There’s a lot to like. That’s a group that I’m really excited about, starting with Antonio (Brown). He’s a unique player because he’s hard to cover and can do a lot of things really well. It makes it easy when you’re a coach designing plays and you have a guy like that with his ability. Across the board, we’ve got a lot of good young guys who have a very versatile skill set. The only offshoot of that is probably Jerricho (Cotchery) who’s an established veteran who has a little different body type. We need that body type, too. He’s a big, strong, physical guy and across the board I’m excited about all those guys and even some of the young guys and their development to this point.

Q. Was running the ball when the Steelers needed to run the ball an issue last year?
A. Like I said, I’m staying away from last year because I had my own set of encyclopedias going on somewhere else. I think the name of the game offensively is being able to get the yards you need on the ground when the defense knows you’re running it, wherever that falls in the game. It could be a critical short yardage play or a four-minute situation. The same goes for throwing when you’re in a must pass situation, and the defense knows you’re throwing. If you can be successful in those situations, most of the time you’ll have a chance to be pretty good.

Q. What is your assessment of the running backs who will be replacing Rashard Mendenhall?
A. I’m excited about that group. I think we have a wide range of body types and skill sets. That’s good. I think we have some big, strong guys like Isaac Redman who can run it up in there when needed but who also has outside ability. Then you have some of the little sports-car type bodies that offer different weapons for us. It’s a good mix. It’s a good group of guys. Kirby Wilson is one of the best running back coaches in the league. I’ve always thought that, and now I really believe it after being with him. He’s got those guys ready every day and they’re competing. I think that position has a chance to really flourish as we go forward.

Q. How much does it help to have a veteran, successful quarterback when going through the process of putting in a new offense?
A. I’ve heard people say that this is a quarterback league. Having now spent 17 years coaching, I believe that. You need a guy who can be the field general and move the football team up and down the field, control the huddle and handle the defense. Ben (Roethlisberger) is in that group of top guys. He has proven it from day one in the NFL. I’m having a lot of fun across the board with all position groups, but him handling that football every snap makes it fun for us offensive coaches.

Q. Are you tentative to implement the offense with the young tackles, Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert?
A. No. To be honest, I haven’t thought that way much at all. That’s not my nature. As we go further along, if we see someone who needs some help somewhere, we’ll do what we have to do to help. Gilbert is obviously ahead. He’s got a year under his belt. He’s an exciting guy up front. He’s a tackle who has played a lot of snaps outside on the edge against some of the top dogs in the league. A year makes a big difference. He knows what he’s in for, and you can see it. You can see he’s a confident guy who’s trying to get better every day. He has gotten off to a good start. The young guys are still in keep-your-head-above-water mode. There’s a lot being thrown at them, but they’re handling it well up to this point. They have a long way to go.

Q. Will there be more added to the “simple” offense in place now?
A. No. We’re always going to do what we feel like our players can handle. I’ve always been a “less is more” guy for the most part. If you have quality players who can win in one-on-one matchups, let’s not overcomplicate it. Obviously they’ve proven that this has been a good offense and hopefully can be a better offense. That’s all we’re working for. Everything we’ve done as a staff has been trying to go back to ground zero and give these guys the best chance to succeed. To this point, I think we feel good about our start. There are a lot of things we still need to continue to clean up, but there’s enough good to feel good about what’s happening.

Q. What is your approach to Ben Roethlisberger’s style?
A. I haven’t had any of those talks with the organization. I’m just really excited about working with him. We’re off to a really good start. If you have a guy who’s a proven winner and knows how to move the football up and down the field and get everybody in place, that’s a huge asset. Just like everyone else, we’re going to play to his strengths, but at the same time do things to give him the best chance to succeed on a down-in and down-out basis.

Q. What is your assessment of the tight ends behind Heath Miller, specifically Weslye Saunders and Leonard Pope?
A. Again, that is another group, starting with Heath Miller that I’ve been chomping at the bit to be around and to get to camp with. Miller had a little injury, but it sounds like he’s going to be OK. Hopefully, he’ll be back here soon. There’s no doubt he’s the leader of that group. He’s a guy who has great versatility in the run and the pass game. He’s a smart football player. As coaches, when you have smart football players, whether it’s Miller or Roethlisberger or whomever, guys who can make up for bad calls and mistakes on our part, those are the kinds of guys you want to be around. Miller is one of those. That’s a good group and they have a good leader to look to. Pope’s got a lot of downs played in the NFL and has done a lot of good things for me through the years. It’s a familiar face but at the same time he’s in that competition. It’s a good competition. Jamie McCoy and the young guy, David Paulson, are all competing and getting better. Coach James Daniel does a terrific job with them, and you can see them developing daily.

Q. Is your goal to have one guy be your third down back?
A. I don’t set goals like that. We’ll see how it goes and who is where as we move forward. The good thing is we have a wide array of running backs and fullbacks who can do a number of different jobs. When you get to game day and you’re fighting for roster spots, our head coach will be trying to figure that out. But those guys who can do a couple different jobs will be very valuable to us as an offense.

Q. Do you like having interior offensive line players with a mean streak?
A. I think we’re all excited about seeing this entire line. I think this is a young group, but they all have a lot of competitive fire starting in the middle with Maurkice Pouncey. Willie Colon is mean and nasty. He’s just what you’d think a player coming from the Bronx, Hofstra University, and Long Island would be like. It’s going to be fun to watch. I think the guys right now are still getting comfortable working together. The key to great offensive line play is working together and developing that camaraderie and that ability to communicate without even really communicating. I think it will be fun to watch in the interior. It starts with No. 53, but I have a feeling those guys will be looking out for each other.

Q. Which coach determines whether David DeCastro and Mike Adams take reps with the first string or second string?
A. Most decisions that we make are together as a staff. We have a lot of discussions daily, in the morning and at night. The bottom line is to get it right. That’s what is great about training camp. We’ll get them out there and get them as many reps as we can get all of them knowing you have to develop multiple layers. It’ll start to become clear to all of us. Through our discussions with Coach Tomlin, we’re just trying to get it right.

Q. Are you happy with where the offense is right now?
I think as a staff, myself included, we feel there’s been enough good to feel good about the direction we’re going. There’s a lot of work to do. We’re still reinstalling a bunch of the things from the spring so that they all hear it for the third time. But to this point there is a lot to clean up still and a lot to come. But we feel good about where we are.

Q. Who will be calling the plays in the no-huddle offense?
A. Ideally, you want the quarterback to do that. Ben has shown the propensity to do that at a high level. This is new to him, so we’re still working together on it. Ideally, if you have a quarterback like Roethlisberger and what he’s done, when he’s in full control, that’s a good situation to be in because he’s right in the middle of it, seeing what’s going on. There’s always communication, at least in my experiences because we can communicate until the play clock gets to down 15 seconds. There are hints and things like that. I could tell through the spring that Ben’s got his arms around it and he likes it. You can see his eyes light up a little bit when we get in that mode. That’s the sign of a great quarterback. The ones I’ve been around, they want it, give me control and let me run this thing. He has the ability to do it, as he’s shown in the past and through the spring. I’m just excited to see us continue working as a group and get this thing ready to go for the season.

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