Much to the dismay of Pittsburgh Steelers fans everywhere, Todd Haley is slowly silencing his many critics in the second half of this season. The man who has garnered as much hatred and venom as anyone that has wore the Steelers logo in recent years is slowly proving his worth by leading an offense that is becoming quite versatile and effective.
I will admit that I was a driver of the “Todd Haley must go” fan bus for a long time, but when you look at the logistics you have to ask yourself if Steelers fans might be trying to run a coordinator out of town that is not doing as bad a job as fans might think.
Most fans will point to the Steelers’ slow start this season and the horrendous offensive output as the starting point for the “Haley must go” talk, but take a look at what the offensive coordinator was dealing with on the offensive side of the football.
He had to watch Maurkice Pouncey, an offensive captain, Pro Bowler and main protector of the franchise quarterback get lost for the season eight snaps into Week 1. He didn’t have Le’Veon Bell at his disposal when he was the running back that was drafted to be the workhorse in the lineup until Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings. His All-Pro tight end, Heath Miller, wasn’t in the lineup until Week 3 and is just now looking like the Heath of old. And of course the revolving door that is the Steelers’ offensive line has continued to spin.
Those are not ideal conditions for continuity and offensive output.
Haley’s best decision was moving to the no huddle more as the season progressed. Ben Roethlisberger has shown he is capable of reading defenses well, but many fans don’t understand that Roethlisberger has the ability to check out of calls and make play calls that will work considering what he sees from the defense.
The perfect example of this is the Thanksgiving night game against the Baltimore Ravens. Fans were fuming when the Steelers ran the ball five straight times to start the football game. If you watch closely, you will see that Roethlisberger checked out of two of those passes and called running plays. That isn’t on Haley.
What has been the difference between the first half of the year and the second half for Todd Haley? Not only do the players seem to be buying into the system, but he is getting that continuity that is essential to success in the NFL.
You are seeing an offensive line that has adapted with the best and being effective in keeping pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger. You are seeing playmakers like Antonio Brown living up to the hype and making play after play. You are seeing Heath Miller finally looking mobile enough to play on a regular basis. What might be the biggest difference is that Roethlisberger finally seems to have completely bought stock into Haley’s offense, and you can tell by the play on the field.
Still don’t believe what I’m saying? The numbers don’t lie.
In the past seven games the Steelers’ lowest point total has been 20 points as they are averaging 28 points per game. Compare that to the first seven games when their highest point total was 27 points and the offense averaged 17.8 points per game. That is a two score difference in the second half of the season.
Even though some point to the dismal rushing statistics – 31st in the NFL averaging 79.4 yards per game – players have been very open about how that is a deceiving statistic. The Steelers throw a lot of quick screens to wide receivers like Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders that are essentially used as a running game.
Any way you look at it, not matter how much you detest Todd Haley you cannot say that his system hasn’t been effective. Haley is silencing the critics with a patchwork line and key players missing from the lineup. Maybe it’s time we all give Haley a little more credit for the job he has done this season and possibly in the future for the Steelers.