Much ink has been devoted to Todd Haley's hiring as the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator and how his arrival will help or harm the team's passing attack. There's also the question of how he will bond with the trigger man, Ben Roethlisberger.
The simple truth is that Haley's arrival should be considered good news for fans that want the Steelers to win games by throwing the football well. A sharp passing attack is a hallmark of Haley's previous work. With the most talented bunch of players he's probably ever had, he's sure to have a field day with opposing defenses.
Here's a look at what fans can expect out of Haley's passing game.
There has been a lot of talk about how Ben Roethlisberger would handle the departure of his friend Bruce Arians and the arrival of the sometimes-adversarial and combustible Haley. The truth seems to be that Roethlisberger is doing just fine.
There will be some adjustment. Haley, unlike his predecessor, isn't in Pittsburgh to be chummy with the team's elite passer. He's here to make him better, make him win games and to get as much production out of him as possible.
To that end, you can expect Roethlisberger to have the reigns tightened initially, but in the end I think Haley will allow his quarterback the freedom he enjoys while also bringing certain aspects to the system that Big Ben will come to love dearly.
One thing that may take some getting used to for Big Ben is that he'll no longer be able to shrug off mistakes. Haley will use them as teachable moments and will probably, in the end, make Roethlisberger an even more effective passer.
The Steelers have been quite good when utilizing a quick, no-huddle offense. The problem was that Bruce Arians did not favor the system and didn't use it nearly enough.
While Roethlisberger doesn't have the style of Peyton Manning barking audibles with accompanying hand signals, he is every bit as effective at calling his own plays at the line without taking time to huddle up his troops.
Haley will likely throw out that philosophy and allow Roethlisberger to use the no-huddle anytime it gives the team a clear advantage. Haley's sole desire is victory. If the no-huddle gets him there, he's going to use it.
One aspect of the team's offensive struggles I've talked a lot about in the past few months is their inability to handle the ball inside the red zone. This has been a continual problem that seems inexplicable if you consider the talent and versatility of the players involved.
Haley will likely make this a focus. No more will running four times from just outside the goal line be the answer. Things will get mixed up, new targets will be utilized and keeping the opposition guessing will be the plan.
After finishing an awful 21st in scoring last season, any improvement is welcome. I would expect a dramatic improvement under Haley, who won't be afraid to do something out of the ordinary if he and Roethlisberger see an advantage.
But The Run!
The talk about emphasis on the run is nice and the team will probably run more effectively and efficiently in 2012 than they have in the last several years, but I don't see the team going anywhere close to a balanced attack or a run-heavy system.
Haley builds his offense around the quarterback. He got more out of Kurt Warner than anyone this side of Mike Martz. He seemed to be making progress with Matt Cassel. Now he gets Roethlisberger and an enviable corps of receivers.
They will run, but it will still likely be to set up their play action passing game, something I expect to see more of next season. If you're looking for something for the running backs to do, I think you'll see them catching more passes than they ever have in the past. Haley loves versatile backs. That's why Baron Batch and Chris Rainey have a good chance of cracking the final roster.
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