Mike Tomlin expressed his happiness with offensive coordinator Bruce Arians in post season interviews, but team President Art Rooney was unhappy with the offensive performance in 2011. By all accounts Rooney forced Arians hand and he resigned from his position as offensive coordinator. Tomlin has replaced Arians with former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley.
It was no secret that Arians and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a good/close relationship; Ben even invited Arians and his wife to join him in Hawaii during the 2012 Pro Bowl. Therefore, it was no surprise when Roethlisberger expressed his anger about the decision to remove Arians. Roethlisberger has said that he believed the offense was on the right track and was poised for a break out year. Rooney, however, has his sights set on returning to “Steelers football.”
Todd Haley will be the man to make that happen. Haley has had plenty of success coaching offenses in the NFL. His 2008 Arizona Cardinals offense led the team to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Steelers, and was able to overcome a defense that allowed 49 regular season touchdowns (the most ever given up by a team in the Super Bowl).
Haley has been known to get the most out of his players and he will have plenty of weapons to work with in Pittsburgh, especially if the Steelers retain wide receiver Mike Wallace. Wallace and Antonio Brown both had over 1,000 yards receiving in 2011, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 4,000 yards and the Steelers running backs accounted for over 2,000 yards on the ground and through the air. Wallace and Brown, however, are the keys to success. Both receivers are still young and only entering the prime of their careers. Haley rode receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin to Super Bowl 43; he will try to do the same with Wallace and Brown.
Another weapon in Haley’s arsenal will be receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders, if you remember, was regarded more highly than Antonio Brown after the Steelers loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Foot problems, however, caused Sanders to miss a lot of time in 2011 and he will be playing catch-up in the off-season. Just imagine, though, if Sanders proved better than Brown, the Steelers would have too many targets to cover, especially with tight end Heath Miller roaming the middle of the field. Ben Roethlisberger would likely have his pick of at least one open receiver on most throwing plays and just like the run can open up the pass that passing offense would likely help to open up the run.
In all likelihood the Steelers will not be reverting to a run heavy football team; instead they will likely balance out the offense moving closer to a 50/50 split. Arians unwillingness to use a fullback hampered the Steelers run game for the past few years. Steelers backs are continuously met in the lane and hit by the first defender; the return of the fullback should help to open larger holes and increase the success of the run game. However, David Johnson is likely not the answer; Johnson is a blocking tight end playing the fullback position. The Steelers need a “Dan Kreider 2.0.”
Haley has his work cut out for him, but with better balance and play calling he should be able to lead the Steelers to a better offensive year in 2012.