Each week one of the Steelers coordinators will share their insight in an exclusive interview that can be heard on SNR every Thursday in the 3 p.m. hour.
This version of Coordinators Corner will give you a sneak peek of what to expect, but it just touches the surface. Read what they have to say, but take my advice, listen every Thursday for the full interview. It will be worth your time.
Featured this week is offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
JuJu on the block:** JuJu Smith-Schuster has done something not a lot of rookies receivers do in the NFL, and that is step in from the get-go and make an impact. Haley said it's a combination of things that have worked for Smith-Schuster, starting with his intelligence. "He showed right from the start, going all the way back to the rookie minicamp, that he is a smart guy," said Haley.
"He pays attention, he listens, he is very coachable, and he studies. Once he is in there his ability in the run game, specifically in the sub-run game where you need a big body in there to block bigger defenders, he has shown a great willingness to block with great pride. We grew that in to some of these cracks and outside tosses we are running, where we are putting him on defensive ends. He is doing a very good job in the run game and raised the bar. On top of that, because of his intelligence, he is able to play multiple positions from play-to-play and he has consistently made plays when opportunities have popped up."
As deep as it gets: The depth on the offensive line for the Steelers has been a game-changer this year, with players like Chris Hubbard and B.J. Finney in particular stepping up this year and starting due to injuries and other scenarios. Haley said the depth has been a key for the offense, and something that is unusual in the NFL any more.
"I think it's awesome," said Haley. "I have said it going back to last year. I think we have the best group up front, and that includes our depth. When they have opportunities, they have stepping up and played at a high level. The depth is awesome. You don't see that very often. On top of a great front five, we have guys that can step in and allow us to do what we want to do."
Finishing strong: You've heard it time and time again, that it's not how you start, but rather how you finish. Well, for the Steelers offense, they are definitely finishing strong. The offense is ranked No. 2 in the AFC, and No. 3 in the NFL, and Haley likes what he sees.
"Early on there were people on us a little bit, feeling like we didn't reach our potential," said Haley. "We knew we were a play here, a play there away from playing at a high level. In the second half of the season we did that. We knew we weren't far off. The guys have done a very good job sticking together, sticking with the plan. Week-in and week-out we have a different game plan we are following. They have done a good job adjusting. We have gotten better every week, and that is the name of the game. If you stay the same, you are probably not going anywhere. We have continued to evolve and getting better in each and every spot."