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Coordinator's Corner: Todd Haley

Posted Jun 11, 2013


Re: Start of minicamp:
We’re excited about it. It’s a little different set-up this year. Normally, this has been a start over point, but since, offensively, we’ve had everyone from day one of OTAs we’re kind of just picking up where we left off. We’ve got three practices plus these walk-thru’s and we’re just trying to keep on keeping on and get as much done as we possibly can before we break for the summer.

Did you get enough done with QB Ben Roethlisberger before his knee surgery that you feel comfortable with any wrinkles you may have added in the offseason?
Yeah. We’d love to have him but we feel night and day ahead of where we were last year at this time and I think he’d say the same thing. He’s still around here so he’s getting those “mental reps,” which he loves.

You said you are taking more input from the players this year. Is that right?
That’s offensive to me because I’m an open-minded guy, but I think it just comes with familiarity and getting to know people. Myself, as a coach, I know the players a lot better. They know me personality-wise. I think it’s just an evolution of how things go with anything you’re doing, business, sports, whatever it is. I think we’re seeing that happen. I think everybody is just more comfortable, which is a good thing. That leads to better communication, which in my opinion leads to better execution and better football.

What kind of feedback did you get from your various position groups?
It’s hard to be specific, really, because it started the day the season ended. Like I said in, I think, Steelers Digest we went through and watched every game from start to finish, play by play. That really started the process and really forced us a coaching staff to really work through everything that went on through the season. I thought it was a great exercise and that worked in to the players coming back at the right time. Like I said, we’re much further ahead than we were last year at this time, which I think is natural. That’s a good thing for us.

Roethlisberger talked about some of the changes you made and he said he and the assistant coaches had some input. Was it mainly terminology? Obviously, it wasn’t revamping the offense.
No, I think the hardest thing for everybody is the terminology. I’ve said a number of times that I’m not a system guy. Your players change, hopefully, just year by year, but in our case week by week at times. You’ve got to play to their strengths and you’ve got to do what they do well according to how defenses try to play against you. The terminology is why I think everybody is a lot more comfortable. Where the input comes in is something I love on a weekly basis, whether it’s first year, second year or tenth year, you want your marquee-type players, your big dogs, to have input because they’re the ones out there facing the live bullets and I think that through a comfort level as much as just getting to know people, guys are just naturally more comfortable coming to you as coaches and saying, “Hey, what do you think about this? What do you think about that?” As a coach, from a very early stage in my career, I’ve been taught that if guys believe in something, they tend to take accountability in it and things work out in a good way. Going all the way back to coaching receivers, Keyshawn Johnson who I coached, I would say to him, “If you come in and do the work and come up with ideas on a Monday and give them to me on a Tuesday, I can’t guarantee you but I’ll try to do everything I can to get as much in that you like as I can.” That’s really just where we are and to me that’s all positive. You want your guys that are out there, especially Ben, who’s handling the football, hopefully on an every down basis, to really feel invested in what’s going on.

WR Mike Wallace is gone. Do you change the offense much since you do not have his speed in the lineup?
No, because I think we’ve got fast guys as it is. I think these other guys would probably be offended if you called them slow. Mike, obviously, was a rare speed guy but I view [Antonio Brown] and Emmanuel [Sanders] and potentially some of these young guys as rare speed guys. If you look in the Hall of Fame there are not many sub-4.4 guys in there. I mentioned Keyshawn, but Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, don’t tell them, but those guys had a hard time breaking 4.5. We’ve got plenty of speed so not a lot is going to change from that standpoint. We’re still going to use our players to their strengths as best we can and we just have to win more games.

What did you like about the offense in year one? What do you think needed the most work in the offseason and now and during training camp?
For the first half of the year I thought we protected the ball with the best of the league. I think we were one giveaway behind New England, who was doing it as good as anybody had through eight games. That was a good thing. That’s a direct translation to winning when you protect the football. I was really happy with that in the first part of the year. In the second half of the year, you can’t win when you’re turning it over. It’s proven through years and years that if you turn the ball over you generally lose. I thought we were pretty efficient. When you protect the football, you usually possess it, even though we weren’t running the ball nearly as efficient as we needed to. We were converting third downs at a high level so we were able to stay on the field, despite not running the football as well as we wanted to. Those were all good things and we were scoring points when we were in the red zone, not always touchdowns, but we were converting for field goals, too. We just weren’t getting in there enough and, to me, some of that comes back to running the football. Going into this year we have to protect the football more like we did in the first half. We have to run the football, overall, much more efficiently. We have to be productive running the football, which will get us into the red zone more. Then, I think we’ll be a pretty good red zone team and we’ll have a chance to win a bunch of games.

How different will the blocking scheme be this year, and what is the outlook for the offensive line unit moving forward?
I think we’re definitely a younger group. When you lose veterans like Willie [Colon] and Max [Starks] there are going to be some guys that have to step up and play. The good thing is last year we got a lot of young guys a lot of playing time like [Kelvin] Beachum, Mike Adams and David DeCastro. They got some playing time, more so than you probably would have even liked because of injury. They got that under their belt and that’s a good thing. I think we’ll be younger I think we’ll be more athletic, though, which will give us a little versatility. As I said, we’re going to play to our players strengths and if you’re limited a little athletically then you’re going to be limited in what you can do. The good thing coming out of that, even though we did lose some veterans that have been good players for long time around here, we’ve become a little more athletic and that will give us a little more versatility, which should help us. You’ve got to be versatile to run in this league. You can’t be one dimensional and have everyone in the stadium know what you’re going to run because you’re going to be beating your head against the wall to make four yards. Everything will have to be perfect. The plan is to become a little more versatile from a running standpoint and that should, hopefully, make us better, We have to have our running backs continue to improve and have some of these young guys step in and help. That’ll make us better.

Will RB Le’Veon Bell help make the running game better, or will it all sort itself out?
I think it will sort itself out for sure. We’ve got to get pads on, but we’re all excited about what we’ve seen from all of them, him included. Throw LaRod [Stephens-Howling] in there also. He’s a guy that’s got a bunch of carries under his belt. He’s a veteran with a little different skill set than some of the other guys. But we’ve got to get pads on and let it sort itself out. Everybody, I think, feels pretty good about where we are at this stage.

Do you have a guy that can replace RB Rashard Mendenhall and carry the ball 20 times a game?
I think any one of them is capable of it. Last year, despite the history of Rashard, I didn’t have it as the coordinator because of injury and some of the things that went on. We didn’t have anybody who was able to get over the hump and step up. They all know the task and the challenge in front of them and I think that’s got all of their ears perked up. They’re excited about the competition because there is opportunity. Every one of them, all the way to Baron Batch, who I think is much healthier than he was at this stage last year. They’re all excited about the challenge and the opportunity, and that’s a good thing for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

How would you characterize your first year?
8-8. Not good enough.

I just mean that you’re coming home, going through a year like that and there were a lot of things happening that are out of your control.
When you don’t make the playoffs and you don’t get to compete in the tournament it’s no fun. It’s too much work and sacrifice to sit at home and watch some teams that you may have beat or felt like you could beat continue to play. That’s no fun. Being home is great. Being part of this great organization is where I want to be. So, we need to better and I’m excited about being better. I think we have a chance to be better, but right now we’re in minicamp and we’ve got a bunch of OTAs under our belt now. We’ve got three solid, full days to really good some good teaching and work in. Then it will be time for training camp. We’ll be able to put the pads on and we’ll be real excited.

Did we ever see the offense as you envisioned it last year, or was it more of getting by week to week?
I think you saw glimpses of an efficient offense, especially when we were running the football well. We didn’t run the ball nearly efficiently enough to, in my opinion, be a great offense. I think that has to be a part of the equation. It doesn’t mean you run it 40 times a game. You might run it 15 times a game, but if you’re an efficient running offense, those are going to be productive runs that get you into the scoring zone. Like I said, if we get in there, I think we’ll be good and once we get in there we’ll score points. We saw glimpses, but you are what you are or, as my old boss Bill Parcells used to say, you are what your record is. We were 8-8 and that’s not good enough. But we have been and we’ll continue to do everything possible to be better than that.

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