Todd Haley To Ream Coach Steelers Offense

 Posted by at 5:24 am  Art Rooney II, Big Ben, Mike Wallace, Steel Dynasty, Todd Haley  Comments Off on Todd Haley To Ream Coach Steelers Offense
Feb 072012

The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally found their man. Or, more accurately, Art Rooney II found his man. After all, the Deuce seems to be the one calling all the shots these days. I wonder if he even bothered to consult his head coach or superstar quarterback before making his latest move.

It appears former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley will be named the Black and Gold’s new offensive coordinator. This will be a homecoming for Haley, a native of Upper St. Clair and the son of former Steelers player and director of player personnel (1971-90), Dick Haley. Upon graduating from Florida in 1991, where Todd’s athletic resume consisted solely of playing for the Gators vaunted golf squad, young Haley hooked on with the New York Jets as a scout and later as an offensive assistant under Charlie Weis while the elder Haley served as their player personnel director. Ah, I love the smell of nepotism in the morning.

Despite getting a foot in the door because of his dad, Haley did work his way up the NFL food chain on his own merit. He served as an offensive assistant/wide receivers coach in Dallas under Bill Parcells, then became Ken Whisenhunt’s offensive coordinator when he moved down to Arizona. This would be the first time the Steelers recycled something from Pittsburgh West Arizona instead of vice versa. Anyway, after helping the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl, Haley left for the head coaching job in Kansas City. Under Haley, KC had a miserable first season but rebounded to go 10-6 and capture their first AFC West title in seven years in his second. This year was shaping up to be another wasted campaign although that was only marginally on Haley as he lost his starting quarterback, All-Pro running back and top wide receiver all by mid-season.

Of course, coaches have seasons where they’re snakebitten and survive, especially when they’re coming off a division title. The reason for Haley’s sudden dismissal is the same reason I’m worried about him joining the Steelers. The Chiefs were stuck playing Tyler Palko and GM Scott Pioli saw exactly what Pitt fans saw in Palko; not much. So Pioli picked up Kyle Orton off the waiver wire which for some reason irritated the stubborn and paranoid Haley. Despite Palko’s obvious incompetence, Haley refused to play Orton, almost daring Pioli to fire him. He got his wish.

This isn’t the first time Haley has run afoul of his co-workers. His career is littered with a history of not getting along with management, fellow coaches and/or his players. In KC, Haley kept another Steeler alum, Chan Gailey, on as OC when he took over, only to relieve him of his duties about a month into the season. The next year, they brought in former Patriots and Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis but Weis left abruptly after only one year for what would seem an inferior job as OC at Florida. While in Arizona, Haley feuded with several players, most publicly being a sideline blowup with Kurt Warner and shouting match with Anquan Boldin. At Dallas, Haley was said to have a poor relationship with a number of players, most notably Terrell Owens. Okay, I can’t hold that one against him.

But I am worried how his abrasive personality will mesh with a veteran and, frankly, accomplished team like the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t some raw rookie who needs a boot up his ass. Maybe the young receivers could use a little discipline but I’d think that’s the quarterback’s job. I can just see Haley reaming out Ben on the sideline and Ben being all, “See these two rings? How many do you have? Zero? Then shut the f@ck up.” That’s not exactly the kind of team unity that spells championships. In fact, it sounds a lot more like the circus in Dallas than the Steeler Way.

Then again, the Steeler Way has always been the coaches coach and the owner doesn’t interfere. Art II’s meddling already blew that tradition all to bits so if he’s going to be another Jerry Jones, why not bring Cowboys-style chaos to Pittsburgh as well. If Haley can deliver a 4,000 yard passer and two 1,000 yard receivers next year, I’ll certainly eat my words. However, I have a feeling Haley’s Comet may not have been worth the 76 year five year wait.

Butler Snubs Colts, Steelers Snub Caldwell

 Posted by at 6:49 am  Dick LeBeau, Mike Tomlin  Comments Off on Butler Snubs Colts, Steelers Snub Caldwell
Feb 012012

Talk about getting left at the altar…

Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler had a change of heart over the weekend, deciding not to join the Indianapolis Colts as their next defensive coordinator. Over the past couple off-seasons, Butler has been the go-to choice for teams looking for a new D-coordinator. He turned down a job with the Dolphins two years ago and the Steelers refused to grant him permission to interview with the Cardinals last summer. The consensus is Butler has been tabbed to take over for Dick LeBeau whenever the master decides to retire although his brief flirtation with the Ponies seems to indicate he’s worried about getting JoePa’d. All parties involved are stating no promises have been made in regards to transitioning Butler into the top job in the near future.

Which naturally means promises were made regarding transitioning Butler into the top job in the near future.

Butler to the Colts was never an ideal match. Indy still plays Tony Dungy’s 4-3 Tampa-2 while Butler is a disciple of LeBeau’s 3-4 Zone Blitz scheme. With the Colts in full rebuilding mode, perhaps they were willing to devote the next couple drafts to bringing in the proper defensive personnel to run the Steelers’ system but it would be a few years before they’d have the right players in place. My feeling is Butler has been patiently waiting to take over the Steelers’ defense for the past three years but with LeBeau still going strong, perhaps he’s feeling a bit desperate. The fact he opted against joining the Colts signals to me that 2012 will probably be LeBeau’s final season as D-coordinator.

In other coordinator news, former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell will not be coming to Pittsburgh to take over offensive playcalling. *Whew* As I mentioned on Monday, he would’ve been an absolutely horrible choice for O-coordinator. He’s never been an offensive coordinator on any level and his football credentials primarily consist of being Dungy’s friend and fetching coffee for Peyton Manning. The Ratbirds ended up hiring Caldwell as QB Coach which is hilarious on a number of levels. The main one being the idea that zombie will somehow be able to transform Bert Flacco into another Pey-Pey.

The newest offensive coordinator prospect is former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. The Steelers official website even posted a blurb about Haley meeting with Mike Tomlin, which is very unusual for that super-secretive organization. Haley, as noted before, is a Pittsburgh native and his father, Dick Haley, played for the Steelers before serving as the team’s director of player of personnel (Kevin Colbert’s job today) during the Steel Dynasty. Haley wouldn’t be the worst choice in the world as he managed to turn a talent-barren Chiefs team into a respectable offense and made his name as the O-coordinator for Ken Whisenhunt’s Super Bowl runner-up Cardinals. The problem with Haley is he has a reputation for being an unbearable prick, having alienated players on both the Chiefs and Cardinals with his abrasive personality.

One thing is for sure, the Steelers better make a move soon because the pool of decent offensive coordinator candidates is rapidly thinning out. The Fins hired Green Bay’s O-coordinator, Joe Philbin, as head coach which means QB coach Tom Clements will likely be promoted there. Caldwell and former Raiders coach Hue Jackson have found jobs elsewhere. The Steelers have the option to promote their QB coach, Randy Fichtner, to the top job but I don’t see how he’d be a huge change from Arians. A dark horse candidate I’ve heard thrown around is former Pitt Panthers quarterback Alex Van Pelt. It’s an intriguing name but Van Pelt’s previous NFL experience has been overseeing pathetic offenses in Buffalo and Tampa. I’m not sure that’s the guy you entrust with a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.

So, who should be the Black and Gold’s next offensive coordinator?


Art Rooney Must Answer To Big Ben

 Posted by at 8:06 am  Art Rooney II, Big Ben, Dick LeBeau, Flying Circus, Mike Tomlin  Comments Off on Art Rooney Must Answer To Big Ben
Jan 302012

Anybody else expecting a nice quiet off-season for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

If so, you’ve got to be sorely disappointed. The Steelers coaching carousel continues to go round-and-round with yesterday’s news that linebackers coach Keith Butler is in serious negotiations to join the Indianapolis Colts as their defensive coordinator. Butler has long been tabbed as Dick LeBeau‘s heir apparent to the point the Steelers refused to allow him to interview with Pittsburgh West Arizona about their DC job last summer. However, his contract is up this year and with LeBeau returning next season, it looks like he’s sick of waiting his turn.

In a twist of irony, if Butler does leave for Indianapolis, he’ll join ex-offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was named the Colts OC on Friday. Wait, I thought BA had “retired?” That bald-faced lie went up in smoke faster than Bret Favre’s last three “retirements.” In fact, team president Art Rooney II (who from this point on, I’ll nickname the Deuce as to separate him from the one true honorable Art Rooney) has now all but admitted it was his call to can Arians.

“I think the questions of how we got here are not really relevant,” the Deuce told the Post-Gazette when pressed on the issue of where the dismissal of Arians came from. If that non-denial denial wasn’t damning enough, he all but outed himself two sentences later when he said, “I think it was time for a change, and we’re looking forward to moving on.” Oh, YOU think it’s time for a change, huh Artie? What does your HEAD COACH think? Or doesn’t his opinion matter?
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Jan 252012

All season long, I’ve pointed out the Pittsburgh Steelers penchant for lying. The national media even jumped on the story briefly when Mike Tomlin repeatedly used the term “concussion-like” symptoms rather than straight up saying whether or not a player had been concussed. As annoying as I find Tomlin’s weekly misinformation campaigns aka press conferences, I do kinda understand why he does it. A lot of coaches have an almost dictatorial attitude when it comes to keeping team secrets. Bill Belichick is legendary for putting every single malady right down to the last hangnail on his team’s injury report in an effort to cloud the issue. So while I may find it ridiculous for Tomlin to tell reporters one of his lineman has a broken toe when he actually tore his ACL, I sort of understand why he thinks he has to do it.

But now we have the saga of Bruce Arians.

When news came down that BA had “retired” from his job as offensive coordinator, I put that information in quotes because something smelled fishy. During the season, rumors swirled that Arians was a contender for the head coaching job at Georgia Tech, a rumor Arians squashed by saying he had no interest in kissing the ass of high school punks. When the season ended, Tomlin told local reporters he expected his entire staff back next year. Then team president Art Rooney gave an interview where he basically threw the offense under the bus and next thing you know Arians is “retiring.”

Arians was recently interviewed by the York Daily Record and now it comes out that he did not leave of his own accord as the Steelers would have you believe. The “retirement” angle is evidently the cover story floated by Steelers management to obscure the fact they didn’t offer him a contract for next season. Arians went on to say he would not rule out a return to coaching while currently weighing “five or six” offers from other teams. He also confirmed the rumors that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is “not happy” about his dismissal.

The key part of the story is where Arians says Tomlin told him several times he wanted him to return. Which means either Tomlin lied to his face or the decision to replace Arians came from Art Rooney. Neither is a particularly positive option. If Tomlin fibbed, well, lying to the media is one thing but being dishonest with your fellow coaches doesn’t exactly speak well of your leadership. If the decision came from Artie, nothing ever goes wrong when you have an owner who interferes in the day-to-day operations of his team.

Ask Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder.

Jan 202012

Let’s take a walk down memory lane. The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers had a hugely disappointing season was the Super Bowl Hangover year of 2009. Shortly into the off-season, rumors began flying fast and furious that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would be out on his ass. The local media began eulogizing his tenure in their columns while the Steeler blogs who turned #FireArians into an official meme of Steeler Nation were positively orgasmic.

Only thing left was receiving official confirmation from Steeler management. Of course, it never came. The story goes Ben Roethlisberger made a last minute plea to Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney on behalf of his buddy and they acquiesced to the wishes of their superstar quarterback. If not for Big Ben’s timely  intervention, Arians and his Flying Circus would’ve been sacrificed at the altar of Black and Gold failure.

Fast forward to the present. We recently completed the 2011 season, which was much more successful than the miserable 2009 campaign, although it ended just as badly. Big Ben surpassed 4,000 yards passing for the second time in his career (and team history), directing an offense which finished 12th overall and 10th through the air. Despite those accomplishments, not to mention being one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, rumors are again swirling that Arians is on the way out.

Come hell or high water, Mike Tomlin always gets his man.
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Nov 102011

Your old pal Chris here. A couple weeks back, I ran a special Guest Blogger column by longtime reader Hennessy. His post generated the most comments in Total Steelers history clearly indicating yinz guys like him better than you like me. Since I’m still stunned and angry over the Baltimore game and, left to my own devices, I’d write five posts ranting about the various travesties that happened on Sunday, I figured it might be nice to bring in a relief pitcher to change things up a bit. Take it away, Hennessy…

The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted five quarterbacks since 2000, all of them in the fifth round, except, of course, Ben Roethlisberger. The brightest star in that group was Ex-Tennessee Volunteer Tee Martin, mostly because he had a pretty cool name which sounded particularly good in Pittsburghese. As we learned (the hard way) last Sunday, not to mention with the parade of human traffic cones who man the offensive line every season, we’ve clearly had greater areas of need in recent drafts. But this season and the success of Young Money have me hoping there is a plan to develop a game-ready mentor to Ben in the coming years.

I never thought I would find myself in this position, but Bruce Arians has made me a fan of the pass-first offense. That’s not to say I don’t shudder every time I hear someone saying we are getting away from “Steeler Football” (because we are, and yinzers don’t take well to change with the Stillers). There might not be anything more fun to watch than the pounding football of old, but the way Ben snaps, scrambles and throws has been pretty entertaining. And whadda ya know, he’s winning a lot of damn football games doing it.
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Arians’ Flying Circus Almost Left Town

 Posted by at 11:46 am  Big Ben, Flying Circus  Comments Off on Arians’ Flying Circus Almost Left Town
Aug 162011

After the Pittsburgh Steelers heartbreaking loss to the Green Bay Packers in last year’s Super Bowl, an eerie pall was cast over the City of Champions.  When you follow the most successful franchise in NFL history, losing is not something to which you’re accustomed.  Let alone losing on the grandest stage of them all.  It leads to depression which in turns leads to crazy thoughts.

“Maybe they weren’t that good after all.”  “Maybe we should let LaMarr Woodley, Ike Taylor and Hines Ward go so we can get Nnamdi Asomugha!”  “Maybe I’ll start watching the Pirates.  How bad can they be?”

Offensive coordinator [intlink id=”31″ type=”category”]Bruce Arians[/intlink] had a crazy thought of his own.  Retirement.
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Big Ben Is Gonna Die

 Posted by at 8:40 pm  Roster Moves  Comments Off on Big Ben Is Gonna Die
Jul 282011

Post-lockout madness has struck the Pittsburgh Steelers with the majority of the action centering around the team’s much-maligned offensive line.

The Steelers entered the day approximately $10 million over the salary cap.  To get within range, they released Antwaan Randle-El and Max Starks.   ARE is no surprise what with the emergence of rookies Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.  Starks, however, has been the team’s starting left tackle and Franchise player over the past couple seasons.  He did suffer a herniated disc in his neck necessitating season-ending surgery last year so perhaps he has not sufficiently recovered.  Or maybe the Steelers feel they can re-sign him at a lower price with the injury discouraging other teams from showing interest.
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