Even before the Pittsburgh Steelers actually hired Todd Haley to be their offensive coordinator, there were already doubts and theories about ulterior motives for the team’s interest in the former head coach who was recently out of a job.
The Steelers were just doing him a favor by giving him an interview, in the hopes of drawing up interest from other teams.
It was a tip of the cap to former Steelers Director of Player Personnel Dick Haley, who served in that capacity for the team for three decades between 1971 and 1990—and who just so happens to be Todd’s father.
When the hire was actually made, it was clearly Steelers president Art Rooney II’s doing. His fingerprints were all over it, overstepping his bounds and cutting head coach Mike Tomlin off at the knees, regardless of how often Tomlin claimed it was his own hire.
And this was from both the fans and the media. Haley had been fighting a public relations battle before he even had the job. And he’s been fighting his own battles over the past two and a half seasons to put his stamp on this offense.
It’s difficult to do so with failed experiments such as Chris Rainey and LaRod Stephens-Howling, not to mention an 8-8 record that very much had to do with offensive struggles. But he seems to be gaining more of a foothold in year three.
Even with the recent struggles to find that elusive offensive weapon, the Steelers were still sold on the idea, and they drafted Dri Archer and his elite speed as the next attempt to add that element to the offense that Haley has been looking for.
He also recently discussed his belief in some elements of football analytics, which isn’t typically something that a traditional organization such as the Steelers would be known for.
Haley is attempting to bring some of those analytics concepts into his offense, including his beliefs about running the ball. It may not be a coincidence that the running stable has been completely rebuilt since Haley has been here, including Le’Veon Bell and his versatile skillset, and even down to the fullback in Will Johnson.
From the sounds of it, Haley is also among those who subscribe to the idea that teams should go for it on fourth down more frequently. It is a hypothesis that has gained steam in recent years based on statistician Nate Silver’s research, who helped find that teams on average give up half a win per season based on their conservative fourth-down strategies.
Silver argues that “NFL coaches aren’t irrational or necessarily ignorant of the statistics as much as they are poorly incentivized to get these decisions right”, saying that the nation’s biggest league falls far short of embracing analytics in comparison to baseball and basketball, where it has yielded positive results.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked at a few different ways that Haley is looking to reshape this offense into more of his own image, including adding greater variety to the no huddle package, by incorporating what’s worked on the field into the play book. This is just one more way, but we won’t know how much of his imprint sticks until we get to the regular season.