Newness not always a bad thing

Sometimes, that's the way it is with families. There are arguments. Raised voices. High emotion. Occasionally some hard feelings. But since the best interests of the family are at the heart of everything, all the other stuff takes a backseat to that.

Todd Haley spoke of family immediately after stepping up to the microphone during the news conference held to introduce him as the Steelers' new offensive coordinator – his own family and the Steelers family – and how important both of them are to him.

"I just want to let everybody in this room know just how genuinely excited I am to be a part of the Steelers' family. I say family because that's what I know it as," said Haley. "All of my early memories in life somehow revolved around the Steelers. My father, Dick Haley, worked here. My earliest memory was watching the Immaculate Reception. Those things have stayed with me, and they are a big part of who and what I am."

Todd Haley has grown from the boy who was as amazed as everyone else when Steelers play-by-play announcer Jack Fleming screamed on a day in December 1972 that "it's caught out of the air" into a man who has enough experience to have been hired and fired as an NFL head coach before his 45th birthday. But Haley also made it clear that in his mind there is a vast difference between love and respect, and coddle and pander.

By now, you've seen the photos, watched the videos. Todd Haley wearing an Arizona Cardinals cap and in the face of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald on the sideline during a game. Todd Haley in a Kansas City Chiefs cap screaming into his headset. Or yelling at someone on the field. Arguing. Raising his voice. Maybe hurting some feelings.

That's a part of Haley's NFL coaching resume, too, and he isn't running from it.

Haley related a story of a time when he was a boy growing up in Upper St. Clair, a southern suburb of Pittsburgh where many players and team officials bought homes during the 1970s. His father, Dick Haley – first a player and then an integral part of the personnel department that built those four-time Super Bowl championship teams – didn't allow either of the city's two daily newspapers to be delivered to the house.

"I always said, 'Dad, why don't you want to read the sports sections?' And his philosophy always was, you will be affected in some way by somebody who's seeing it from a different perspective, and it may affect the decision you want to make. So he has been pretty hard-line on me since I've been in the NFL – 'You aren't listening to anything, you aren't watching anything, are you?' I have to be true to my dad. I just really try to focus on being as good of a coach as I can possibly be. I'm not worried about much else. I would say go talk to Keyshawn (Johnson), and Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner and Ken Whisenhunt, and those guys if you want to know, but it's not for me to answer. I just try to be as good of a coach as I can be."

When Mike Tomlin was hired to replace Bill Cowher after the 2006 season, much was made of his candor, his blunt assessments, his honesty. One of the daily features of his team meetings – dubbed "The News" – quickly became notorious throughout the Steelers locker room. But now that everybody knows everybody, and everybody knows everybody wants the same thing, it's not such a big deal.

"One of the first things I will say to these guys is we aren't going to be real into a lot of sensitivity. If you are sensitive, this is probably not the best place to be," said Haley, sounding a whole lot like Tomlin circa 2007. "But I have to adhere to it, too. I dish it out, but I have to take it. This is a passionate, emotional game, and everybody is a little different. I watch those Harbaugh guys, they are pretty into the games. It's about the end result, and (players) really appreciate that. If they know you have their goals in mind, and they all want to be great players, as good as they can possibly be, once they figure out that's what you care about, it is a non-issue, generally."

Another aspect of this transition that could turn into a non-issue is the learning of new terminology. As Haley explained it, he was weaned on Ron Erhardt's terminology when he was a rookie on the New York Jets staff after Erhardt left the Steelers to take the coordinator job there under Bill Parcells in 1996. He also was the offensive coordinator under Ken Whisenhunt after Whisenhunt left the Steelers to become the head coach in Arizona in 2007. Much of the Steelers "system" hasn't changed from what was installed when Cowher was hired in 1992, a system that has endured through the arrivals and departures of the six men who have held the job between Erhardt leaving and Haley arriving.

"I have never been a big system guy," said Haley. "We have terminology, or a vocabulary, that we use, and thankfully there is a lot of carryover that we are finding out here as we go through the process. So, that's a big positive in my mind. But with that being said, we are going to start from a clean slate, and figure out what gives us the best possible chance to succeed and score a lot of points."

Winning and scoring a lot of points. Those are concepts everybody can get behind.

"Players want to know that you have their greatest desires at the front of your list," said Haley. "Transition will always be, I don't want to say difficult, because I don't know how we could determine that right now. It's just starting. There is an uncomfortable aspect to newness, but that's not always a bad thing. I think it'll be a great thing in this case. I'm sure they'll figure out we're trying to make them as good as they can possibly be. Not many players I know of have ever had an issue with that."

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