The Pittsburgh Steelers officially introduced Todd Haley as their new offensive coordinator this afternoon. It was a brief fifteen minute affair where Haley said all the right things. He smartly emphasized his local connections and his father Dick’s ties to the Black and Gold, saying stuff like, “All of my early memories in life somehow revolved around the Steelers. The Steelers are a big part of who and what I am.” That goes a long way toward winning points with us Yinzers who always tend to cut local guys more slack. See Wannstadt, Dave or Cowher, Bill.
Speaking of Bill Cowher, one interesting bit to come out of Haley’s press conference was his admission that Cowher offered him a job as wide receivers coach back in 2004. He declined, choosing to join Bill Parcells in Dallas instead. Considering he broke into the NFL job working for the Jets when they were being run by Dick Haley, I have a feeling Toddy’s decision was motivated by the desire to establish he belonged in the NFL on his own merits, not because he was being handed jobs by his daddy’s current and former teams. In a weird bit of irony, Cowher hired an ex-Browns offensive coordinator as WR coach instead, a fella by the name of Bruce Arians.
While Haley was busy charming the local dirt sheet writers, the Steelers were already hard at work at trimming the roster in an effort to get under the salary cap. As I’ve written about before (see headlines up top), the Steelers are somewhere between $10-20 million over next year’s cap. They redid LaMarr Woodley‘s contract, which is one of their tricks to convert yearly salary (which all counts against the cap) to bonus money (which is spread out over the length of the contract). That probably bought them $5 million or so in space.
They also released Arnaz Battle and Bryant McFadden. Both are small fish and easy cuts, saving only around $4 million in total salary combined. Battle was signed to replace Antwaan Randle El as a special teams returner and veteran fourth wide receiver. When the Steelers hit the receiver jackpot in the 2010 draft, Battle saw his role shrink to nothing. He exits the Steelers having never caught a regular season pass.
B-Mac’s story is a bit more complex. He was a fifth round Steeler draft pick back in 2005 and the coaches thought he’d break into the starting line-up before long. He spent the majority of his career as the nickelback, never quite being able to beat out ageless wonder Deshea Townshend for the starting job. In 2008, he finally took over halfway through the season and started every playoff game all the way through the Super Bowl. The Cardinals must have been impressed because during the off-season they signed him to a big money free agent contract.
He was a disaster with the Cardinals. Before the year was out, he had lost his starting position. Meanwhile, his replacement on the Steelers, Will.i.am Gay, was also struggling mightily. The Steeler swung a draft day trade with Arizona to bring B-Mac back for the 2010 season. He started opposite Ike Taylor and once again the team made it to the Super Bowl. This season, McFadden was the nominal starter but was injured in the pre-season. Gay played extremely well in his place while another former draft pick with high expectations, Kennan Lewis, finally showed something as the team’s nickelback. By the time he was healthy, B-Mac had fallen completely off the radar and wound up spending most of the year as a special teamer. He was actually really good in the role but he’s probably not quite at the point in his career where he’d accept being a role player.
By the way, for all the people down on Face Me Ike in the wake of his epically bad performance against the Broncos, note this. When B-Mac was down in the desert, Gay was the most picked on corner in the league. Last season, B-Mac was the most picked on. There’s a reason teams stay away from Ike, people.
Anyway, neither of these players are big names. Between them, the retirement of Chris Hoke, and the impending exit of Aaron Smith, the easy decisions are all but done. The Steelers are going to need to make more cuts to get under next year’s cap. Time for the tough decisions to be made.