Bruce Arians Archives - Total Steelers » Total Steelers

 

On the NFL’s Sunday morning pre-game show, so-called “insider” Ian Rapoport reported on the above posted tweet. Who is Ian Rapoport? I have no idea. He’s certainly never broken any notable scoops like ESPN or Fox NFL “insiders.” Whoever he is, he certainly did his job by “breaking” a story that even got ongoing updates from the crew covering the Bills-Steelers game.

Before we go into the analysis and denials, we should start with Rapoport’s tweet. He’d later whine he was being misquoted or that the Pittsburgh Steelers were denying things he never said. Rapoport’s scoop actually is two scoops in one. First, he alleges Ben Roethlisberger is going to ask to be traded this off-season. Secondly, he alleges the Steelers already contemplated parting ways with Ben by soliciting trade offers last spring. Continue reading »

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Pittsburgh Steelers car Steeler Nation car

If you listen closely, you can hear Bruce Arians laughing.

Arians’ revenge upon the team that unjustly fired him is now complete in the form of recently acquired left tackle Levi Brown. The Pittsburgh Steelers had high hopes for the former top ten pick, penciling him into their starting line-up before he even stepped foot off the plane from Arizona. So confident were they in their new left tackle that the man he replaced, inept Mike Adams, wasn’t even dressed for Sunday’s game against the Jets.

Naturally, Brown got hurt in pre-game warm-ups and was unable to play. Continue reading »

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When the season ended for the Pittsburgh Steelers a couple months back, I wrote that it appeared we were in for an off-season filled with upheaval. I said that because with something like a dozen unrestricted free agents, a half dozen restricted free agents and a number of overpaid veterans, it seemed a pretty safe bet the roster was going to see significant changes. I never thought those changes would extend to the coaching staff as well. Looking back, change was probably inevitable coming off such a massively disappointing season.

We knew the Steelers were losing offensive line coach Sean Kugler since he announced during the season he was leaving to become head coach at his alma mater (UTEP) at year’s end. Kugler might be the most significant loss as he’s done a tremendous job with the Black and Gold’s offensive line since replacing the awful Larry Zierlein in 2010. Every year we talk about the team’s “new look” line and every year one player goes down almost immediately with several more falling as the campaign marches on. Last year, the team used a different starting O-line combination nearly every week. The line didn’t exactly remain steady no matter who they plugged in – the run blocking, for example, fell apart when Willie Colon was lost – but the fact they could throw an untested undrafted rookie like Kelvin Beachum out there and watch him hold his own speaks well of Kugler’s coaching ability.

Kugler is being replaced by Jack Bicknell Jr. That name probably means more to college football fans than those of us who follow the NFL. Bicknell is the son of longtime Boston College head coach Jack Bicknell. Bicknell Jr. was a starting O-lineman for his dad during the Doug Flutie years before moving into coaching himself. He’s been a career OL coach with the exception of a seven year head coaching stint at Terry Bradshaw‘s alma mater, Louisiana Tech. In recent years, Bicknell Jr. was an assistant OL coach for the Giants for a few seasons before moving on to the Chiefs last season. I don’t pay attention to KC but the G-Men have had some really good lines so let’s hope he was a big part of that.

The Steelers most recent loss was wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery. The official story is Montgomery left to become offensive coordinator at Duke. However, Uncle Eddy Bouchette at the P-G in his role of unofficial PR man has floated the story (no doubt fed to him by team officials) that the team actually booted him out the door. It sounds a lot like the Bruce Arians story where instead of straight out firing BA, they encouraged him to “retire.” And like the Arians situation, word is the reason Montgomery fell out of favor with Steelers brass as they saw him as too buddy-buddy with the Young Money crew. I’m not enamored with Art Rooney II‘s idea that coaches should be hard on their players but those idiots definitely need someone who will put boots to asses.

The new WR coach is Aliquippa native Richard Mann. Mann is a 30 year veteran of the NFL coaching ranks although he has been out of the league the past three years, working as a consultant who prepares college guys for the draft. Mann prior job was as the WR coach/assistant head coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs under Raheem Morris. Mann spent 8 seasons in Tampa, several of which saw him coaching on the same staff as Mike Tomlin. During his tenure, the Bucs won a Super Bowl and had at least one 1,000 yard receiver every year except the last. He’s known as a very detail oriented guy so let’s hope he can bring some discipline to that group of underachievers.

Now, I’ve saved the best for last. The Steelers special teams were an absolute joke last season yet ST coach Amos Jones was inexplicably brought to Arizona by his old buddy Bruce Arians as the ST coordinator down there. I don’t think a single member of Steeler Nation lost sleep over that development. After reaching out to a number of candidates, the Black and Gold finally hired Washington Redskins ST coach Danny Smith. Smith, who started his coaching career at Central Catholic, has bounced around the league since then, coaching ST for the Eagles, Bills and Skins while also enjoying short stints as TE coach for the Lions and DB coach for Philly.

Interestingly, Smith was the team’s first choice back in 2010 but Washington wouldn’t let him go so we ultimately settled on Al Everest. Also, as this comprehensive look at Smith’s eight year stint in Washington mentions, he was the man in charge when Shaun Suisham endured one of his notable meltdowns. Suisham has revitalized his career here in Pittsburgh so it’ll be interesting to see if his resurgence continues under the man who oversaw one of his biggest failures. To be honest, I’d almost be willing to trade a slight drop-off in accuracy if it means a kickoff unit that doesn’t get flagged for holding on every return.

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Why don’t the Arizona Cardinals just change their colors to Gold and Black and be done with it?

Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator and Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians has been named the new head coach of the Cardinals. He replaces another ex-Steelers OC, Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired despite being the most successful coach in Arizona history. Arians beat out several other candidates for the job including current Steelers OC Todd Haley and former Steelers secondary coach/current Arizona DC Ray Horton.

At least we think he beat out Haley for the job. There is evidently some confusion over whether Boss Todd even interviewed with the Cardinals.

The bottom line here is Bruce Arians is now an NFL head coach. This culminates a strange odyssey which began over a year ago when he was happily entrenched as our OC despite constantly drawing the ire of loudmouth yinzers who blame every setback on playcalling. BA was extremely close with QB Ben Roethlisberger and their buddy-buddy relationship was seen as a main reason the Steelers’ offense became more and more pass heavy in recent years. Steelers President Art Rooney II didn’t like this situation and went over head coach Mike Tomlin‘s head to engineer Arians’ firing shortly after the Steelers got Tebow’d out of last year’s playoffs.

Note I said Arians was “fired.” At the time, the dishonest Steelers front office told reporters that Arians was actually retiring. Of course, his “retirement” lasted all of two weeks as he soon accepted a job as OC for the Indianapolis Colts. I don’t mean this to sound callous so please understand when I say with the utmost sympathy and respect that hooking on with the Colts turned out to be an extremely fortuitous move for BA. Indy head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia which left Arians the interim head coach for the bulk of the season. By leading a team full of young players one year removed from the worst record in football to a 9-3 mark and playoff berth, Arians emerged as a hot head coaching candidate.

Arians certainly has his work cut out for him in Arizona. I had my issues with his Flying Circus style of playcalling but he was never as bad as Steeler fans made him out to be. As we saw with Haley this past season, OCs are only as smart as their players execute. You can’t run unless you have a good line and good backs and you can’t score points if your receivers can’t catch the ball.

What Arians is undoubtedly good at is working with quarterbacks. He was the OC in Cleveland when they made the playoffs with the likes of Kelly Holcomb and Tim Couch. He was Ben’s QB guru from the moment he set foot in Pittsburgh. Last season, he did a masterful job with first overall pick Andrew Luck. The QB position was an absolute disaster for Arizona this year so in many ways the choice of Arians would seem a perfect fit.

I think I speak for all of Steeler Nation when I say we wish him well.

 

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The ongoing soap opera that is the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers took yet another turn yesterday. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters that he apologized to Mike Tomlin, the Rooneys, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley for seemingly throwing Haley under the bus following the team’s disappointing loss to Dallas. “I came in (Monday), and I apologized to Todd, I apologized to Mike (Tomlin), and I apologized to Mr. (Dan) Rooney because I let my frustrations jump out after a game,” Ben told a group of reporters.

Why was Ben apologizing? I mean, sure, he came across as a whiner for bitching about play calling when his poor execution of said plays was the primary problem but it’s still strange he felt the need for mea culpas. Rashard Mendenhall didn’t apologize to anybody even though he was suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team.” I suppose creating this semi-controversy on the heels of the most pivotal game of the season wasn’t the best example of leadership from our starting quarterback. At the same time, are Tomlin and Haley so thin-skinned that they can’t stem even the slightest bit of criticism?

What is even odder is he apologized to the Rooneys, specifically Dan Rooney. I’ve heard plenty of players apologize to the Rooney family although it’s almost always following an arrest or some sort legal entanglement. This is the first time I can recall a player apologizing to them for some sort of on-field controversy. It’s also some what interesting that he specifically mentioned Dan, who is reportedly stepping down from his Ambassodorship and coming back to take a more active role with the team. Where this leaves the team president, his meddlesome son Art II, remains to be seen.

As for his relationship with Haley, Ben went on to say of course they don’t always see eye-to-eye. “I‘m sure it‘s that way with every position player and their coach. That doesn‘t mean anything.” Which is exactly what I said yesterday.

It still doesn’t change the fact this bizarre season keeps getting weirder. And it all started when the Steelers experienced a shocking loss to the Denver Broncos followed by the retirement dismissal of Bruce Arians which led to the hiring of Todd Haley. Hopefully when we  close out the year, it won’t be on the heels of another heartbreaking loss and more coordinator controversy.

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Ever since it was announced that Todd Haley would be the new offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers people have been awaiting an eruption. Haley is known as an in-your-face hothead who has had confrontations with players everywhere he’s been. Everybody awaited the inevitable showdown with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Following Saturday’s horrific loss to the Dallas Cowboys, those wishing for a blow-up finally (?) got their wish. Sort of. In his post-game comments, Ben seemed to take issue with the playcalling. Scratch that, he clearly did have issues with the game plan.

Could our long-awaited Big Ben vs Boss Todd showdown finally be here?

Mike Tomlin, in his weekly lie-fest, er, press conference tried to defuse the situation. When asked by reporters if there was a riff between his O-coordinator and star quarterback, Tomlin tersely answered that Ben was “on board with what we’re doing.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement but for a coach who treats minor information like government secrets, at least he sorta answered.

Tomlin’s answer didn’t stop the yinzers from burning up the local sports talk radio lines taking one side or the other. All this talk did was reinforce my opinion that I could never be a talk show host in this town because I’d hang up on 90% of the callers in about thirty seconds. In the space of about two hours, I heard everything from one moron seriously floating the idea that our two-time Super Bowl winning QB couldn’t read defenses to Mark Madden and his legion of brain-dead sycophants floating the idea that Ben should be calling the plays.

This is why I hate when the Steelers are doing poorly. Everybody loses their damn minds.

Let’s have some middle ground here. Ben is a great quarterback. However, he’s not Peyton Manning. I know somebody out there is probably reading that and going all “TWO SUPER BOWLS! HE WINS! PEYTON CHOKES! HERE WE GO, HERE GO!!!” to which I reply, stop being an obnoxious homer. Being a great quarterback doesn’t mean you’re a perfect quarterback.

Peyton has his shortcomings. He could never in a million years make the kind of play Ben made to Heath Miller in Dallas. But Peyton is his own offensive coordinator because he’s extremely cerebral. Ben isn’t. He makes dumb throws and poor decisions all the time. For evidence you need look no further than the pick that ended Sunday’s game. Ben needs an offensive coordinator.

At the same time, Ben should be consulted on the game plan. And I’m sure he is. All quarterbacks are because it’s important the man behind center is clear about the strategy. If you watched HBO’s Hard Knocks series, you’d recall the Jets’ Mark Sanchez and Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill were both involved with their offensive game plans. If a coordinator would consult with those putzes, certainly ours takes into account the views of his QB.

I’ve certainly had my issues with Haley’s offense but I think any talk of firing him is ridiculous. This isn’t some wide receivers coach who got playcalling duties for the first time in his career. Haley oversaw high-powered offenses in Arizona and Dallas. He took a Chiefs team led by Matt freakin’ Cassell and turned Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe into fantasy heroes. Haley knows how to coach an offense.

Has the offense struggled this year? Depends on how you look at it. They’re actually ahead of last year’s pace in terms of point total. Ben is also ahead of last year’s pace in terms of pass attempts, despite missing three games due to catastrophic injury. The fantasy football numbers are down, the team isn’t going to have a 4,000 yard passer, 1,000 yard rusher or two 1,000 yard receivers (Mike Wallace at 823 yards is the only player with a shot at that milestone) primarily due to Haley’s dink and dunk offense. However, stats are for agents and fantasy geeks, points are what matters.

Does Ben have a right to complain? Not really. Then again, Ben never seems to be happy with the offensive coordinator. He and Bruce Arians were extremely tight, to the point Arians was the guy responsible for him being in Milledgeville a few years back (Arians lives nearby during the off-season and Ben only found the area through him). At the same time, Ben used to complain about wanting a tall receiver or trying more no-huddle when the Flying Circus was in town. When the team played the Arizona Cardinals last year, Ben made a comment about how his first O-coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, didn’t let him do enough. Rumor around town is they didn’t get along very well either which partially explains why Whiz was never seriously considered for the Steelers head coaching job.

Ben has a chip on his shoulder. He wants to prove to everybody he’s the best. That’s fine. But it’s the coach’s job to worry about the bigger picture. Letting your QB dictate the offense isn’t part of it.

Besides, if Ben wants to be the man, he should try getting the job done when handed the opportunity. He’s talked about closing games out on offense yet has repeatedly failed when given a chance. The D gave him a chance at the end of the Tennessee game and he didn’t pull it out. He had not one but two chances to win the Dallas game and failed. I’m not discounting all the times Ben has literally snatched victory from the jaws of defeat but this is a what have you done lately business. And lately it hasn’t been the plays that have been called rather the execution of said plays. Until everybody starts playing better, including our franchise QB, it doesn’t matter who is calling what.

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Signs of the apocalypse… Seth MacFarlane, master of crotch and puke jokes, will be hosting the black tie Academy Awards. Lindsay Lohan is suing someone for hurting her. And the newest NFL head coach is Bruce Arians.

Wait, what?

Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia during their bye week. Thankfully, the prognosis is positive and he’s expected to make a full recovery. That’s really good to hear and I, of course, wish him well. Pagano will be undergoing aggressive treatment over the next six weeks, leaving the Colts with no choice but appoint an interim head coach in his absence.

And that man is…

Bruce Arians.

Not bad for a retiree, huh?

Naturally I’m referring to the ridiculous lie Mike Tomlin told the gullible local press when Arians was unceremoniously canned by Art Rooney II. Never bother to tell the truth, such as Arians was fired by a meddlesome know-nothing owner, when a lie will serve just as well. That should be the official motto of Tomlin’s dishonest regime. Unfortunately for them, Arians threw a wrench into their plans when he came out of “retirement”  three weeks later to become the Colts’ offensive coordinator.

Arians will happily cede the position back to Pagano when he recovers from his illness. But if the Colts play well under his direction, it could open up the possibility of a head coaching job in Arians’ future. He wouldn’t be the first former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator to move to the top job. Over the years at least a half dozen former Black and Gold OC’s have gotten the call, including two current NFL head coaches, Chan Gailey and Ken Whisenhunt.

Whiz, it should be noted, is currently at the helm of one of the league’s three remaining unbeaten teams. He’s worked wonders with a Cardinals offense that doesn’t have a legit top-flight QB while former Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton has the Arizona Cardinals playing some of the best defense in football. The Steelers blow on D, the Arizona Cardinals have the Crimson Curtain. The end is truly nigh.

What’s truly ironic is Whisenhunt initially wanted Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler but the Steelers refused to let Dick LeBeau‘s presumed heir apparent go. They seemingly had no problem with Horton heading out west and now it looks like they let one of the brightest young D-coordinators slip through their fingers.

Back to Arians, I’m glad he’ll get a chance at being a head coach, albeit under the worst of circumstances. I had issues with some of his offensive playcalling but when I saw idiot yinzers calling for new O-coordinator Todd Haley‘s head after the season-opening loss in Denver, I realized that their understanding of offense is limited to “Did we win?” Arians produced huge numbers here, including two 1,000 yard receivers, a 1,000 yard rusher and 4,000 yard passer for the first time in Steelers history.

His offense was so beloved by Ben Roethlisberger that he’s still running it. For those who didn’t hear, Big Ben let it slip in the aftermath of the Raiders loss that during the two minute drill, he scrapped the Todd Haley offense and went back to the Flying Circus playbook. Hoooboy. I wonder how many beer cans Boss Todd crushed against his head when he heard about that.

In any case, Ben was clearly a fan of Bruce Arians. And clearly the Colts are happy with him, as well. The Steelers offense has been mostly fine without him so I’m not saying we should regret letting him go. Although we may think differently when Haley grabs Ben’s jersey and reams him a new one for underthrowing a screen pass. The grass, as they say, is not always greener.

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Last night was a depressing night for Pittsburgh sports fans. On the one channel you had the Pittsburgh Pirates continuing their death spiral by literally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Cincinnati Reds tried handing this game to the Bucs, twice leaving the winning run on third with less than two outs in extra innings only for the Pirates to somehow manage to one-up them with the colossally inept feat of not scoring with the bases loaded and NOBODY out. Eventually the Bucs lost a game they needed to win when a AAA pitcher from the Netherlands got into trouble and a AAA shortstop botched an easy ground ball hit right at him.

While this disaster was unfolding, on the Four Letter the other team from Cincinnati were getting their asses handed to them by the Baltimore Ravens. Up 41-13 in the middle of the 4th quarter, coach John Harbaugh proved the old adage that a dick must always be a dick by ordering his first team offense to keep chucking the ball towards the end zone. Maybe he’s under the mistaken delusion that BCS voters determine playoff seeding. Nah, he’s just that big an asshole…

As the annoying pasty baseball stat geeks love to say, “sample size, sample size, sample size.” Granted it was only one game. Granted it was against the Bengals, who appear to have a pretty good defense but at the end of the day the Bungles will always revert back to being the Bungles. Granted it was at home with a team and fanbase geared up over the loss of their beloved owner, Art Modell. Yes, I threw up in my mouth a little typing that.

All that aside, it’s hard to have watched what the Ratbirds put on tape last night and not come away thinking they are the team to beat in the AFC if not the entire NFL.

To give you some idea the difference between them and, oh say, our Pittsburgh Steelers, look no further than each team’s first play of the season. The Steelers had Isaac Redman dive forward for 3 yards. Joe Flacco tossed a 52 yard bomb to Torrey Smith. One team looks like they’ve embraced the NFL’s league wide pass happy offensive explosion. The other looks like a team who should be playing in leather helmets.

The Todd Haley backlash has already begun. Local columnists and talk show hosts got on Boss Todd almost immediately after Sunday night’s loss. On Twitter and sports call-in shows, members of Steeler Nation are already bitching about his play calling. The irony of course being their unhappiness with all the running plays when for the past three years all I heard around town was they needed to “run the ball more/get back to Stiller Football!” Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat, what we saw on Sunday wasn’t Haley’s fault.

The blame for the offense belongs to one man and one man only: Art Rooney II.

The Deuce has told every reporter who’d listen he wants to get back to old school football. It’s widely suspected he was the one who engineered getting Bruce Arians fired when Mike Tomlin had every intention of bringing him back. I had some issues with Arians but the man produced a 4,000 yard passer, 1,000 yard rusher and two 1,000 receivers in the SAME SEASON. No Steelers team had ever done that. What’s more, 80 more yards from Mendy last season and BA’s Flying Circus offense would’ve accomplished that feat TWICE.

You don’t fire a guy who puts up unprecedented offensive numbers if you don’t plan on making a deep philosophical change. And that change comes from the top.

Nobody in the media in going to mention Art II’s name because the Rooney family is revered in Pittsburgh. Rightfully so, might I add. But part of that reverence is due to the Rooneys doing things “the right way.” Part of that “right way” was minimal owner interference unlike you see in the circuses down in Dallas or Miami. Art II got Arians fired, Art II wants the Steelers to play Stiller Football, Art II wants the ball in Isaac Redman’s hands more and Big Ben’s less.

Place the blame where it truly belongs.

Ray Rice is one of the best running backs in football. He had 10 carries all game. Redzone Redman had 5 in the first quarter. Yes the running game dropped off and Haley eventually went no-huddle in the second half but you can’t give away an entire half of football and expect to win consistently. The Steelers offense blew several big chances, most notably an early fumble recovery by LaMarr Woodley which set them up inside Broncos territory. The Ravens got out to a lead early and kept their foot on the gas. The Steelers bumbled around with their 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense until they found themselves in catch-up mode.

Yes, we won the time of possession battle. Here’s a newsflash: time of possession is the most meaningless stat in football. Would you rather grind out an 8 minute drive which sputters out with a FG or go 80 yards in 4 minutes and score a TD (as the Manning led offense did twice against the suddenly shaky-looking Steelers D)?

The Steelers have one of the best QBs in football. They have one of the deepest and most talented groups of wide receivers and tight ends in football. The offense should be in their hands, not the hands of Bowie State. Bruce Arians had it right: you throw to get ahead, you run to maintain it. Yeah, I said it.

That’s NFL Football in 2012. Sorry Artie.

Help me out, folks. Every time you see #FireToddHaley, respond with #FreeToddHaley. Let’s place the blame where it truly belongs.

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By Hennessy

Ladies and gentlemen, the Flying Circus has left the stadium. Ever since Bruce Arians took over for Ken Whisenhunt, February has traditionally been Fire Arians month. For all of the Bruce haters, your day has finally come. For his supporters? Stay tuned to see if he will be coaching Andrew Luck or if he will be getting coached by Peyton Manning. For me? The only intriguing part of the coaching change was Deuce Rooney’s gall to stick his fingers in the middle of the salsa, and then go back for the double-dip. Which, for the record, was a real jackass thing for any member of the Pittsburgh Steelers front office to do, Rooney or not.

Allow me to expand on my opinion. I view coordinators and assistant coaches with a passive eye.  The job of the coordinator is to develop plays that work for his team, put the players through practices that effectively hone their skill at those plays, and stand on the sideline calling said plays, hoping they are executed correctly. That’s it. Sure they have some secondary responsibilities, such as “motivating” their troops, but the Steelers already have people effective at that. He wears #86 and ESPN reports we are trying to shove him out of town prematurely.

When Todd Haley took over the offensive reins in Dallas, he did what a lot of lucky coordinators do. He rode out the storm until talent came along that could execute what he had been doing all along. They went from just over .500 to 13-3! It must have been because of Haley and newly appointed head coach Wade Phillips! No, it was because of a guy named Romo who at least started off his career playing great football.

Coordinators and assistant coaches are, to me, the equivalent of a swim cap or really tight bicycle shorts. They are an edge in an otherwise even sport, one which might pay off every once in a while when those fractions of a second matter. At the end of the football game, it is Wes Welkah that catches drops a pass to bring not bring the Lombardi back to Bahhhstahhn, and the coordinator doesn’t have a damn thing to do with it. Just like the .0000001th of a second Michael Phelps gets from his latex head condom won’t win the meet if he hit the bong too hard before jumping in the pool.

Was Arians capable of crafting, teaching, and calling plays? Yes. Is Chief Haley capable of doing this? Apparently. Do I sense a momentum shift in the entire offense because of our new Fast & Furious leadership and the exit of Bruce the Bubble Screen wizard? Absolutely not.

I wish the best of luck to Bruce out in Indianapolis, and extend a warm greeting to Chief Haley. Fortunately for him and us fans of the Black and Gold, the offensive talent is already in place. It’s up to Haley to build on that talent and keep the playbook fresh. Here’s to many seasons of him not screwing anything up or yelling at players on the sidelines while hopefully Deuce Rooney keeps his mitts off the plate delegated to Mike Tomlin and his staff.

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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.

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