Todd Haley’s Coaching Career Carries Theme At Wide Receiver

The other day, ESPN writer Matt Williamson visited the Pittsburgh Steelers’ minicamp in order to get a feel for the team with first-hand experience of the roster, and he came away impressed. I relayed yesterday his believe that the team’s rookie third-round wide receiver, Sammie Coates, has the potential to make an impact on the offense during his rookie season, which is not necessarily a commonly held opinion.

But he also made an interesting secondary point that supports his view of Coates and his potential to procure a solid amount of playing time and production during his first season. That point was that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has somewhat of a pattern of preference throughout his coaching history about what he likes in his wide receivers.

And one of those common characteristics is size, if you go back and take a quick look at some of the high-profile wide receivers that were featured in his offensive game plan in Arizona and later with Kansas City.

The obvious starting point would be Larry Fitzgerald, who of course predates his time with the Cardinals, as does Anquan Boldin. But Haley took that Cardinals offense with these two 6’1” and above receivers all the way to the Super Bowl.

And then when he left for a head coaching position with the Chiefs, he inherited Dwayne Bowe, a 6’2” receiver, who he later paired with a first-round wide receiver—the 6’4” Jonathan Baldwin.

Since joining the Steelers’ coaching staff in 2012, the Steelers have drafted four wide receivers who, with the exception of Markus Wheaton, were all 6’1” or taller, with the 6’1” Coates being the shortest of the group. Justin Brown was 6’2”, while Martavis Bryant pushes 6’4”.

Haley entered the coaching ranked by way of serving as a scout for the New York Jets for a couple of years while his father, Dick, was the Director of Player Personnel there. After a couple of years there, he was made an offensive assistant, and later the wide receivers coach, where he helped the 6’4” Keyshawn Johnson earn a couple of Pro Bowl nods.

He then moved on to the same position with the Bears, helping Marty Booker, another over-six-foot target, earn his only Pro Bowl bid, before moving on to the Cowboys, sending the 6’3” Terrell Owens to the Pro Bowl and a first-team All-Pro nod.

It was only after the 2006 season that he moved on to the Cardinals as offensive coordinator, which is where most tend to pick up the story arc of his coaching career and the success that he found with the likes of Fitzgerald and Boldin.

But we do see a bit of a pattern throughout his career, be it a combination of preference and circumstance, in the usage of larger wide receivers, and we see that bleeding into the profile of wide receivers that the Steelers have not only drafted, but also targeted as undrafted free agents, the majority of whom are 6’2” and above. It does seem that for Haley, when it comes to the wide receiver position, size does matter—unless you’re Antonio Brown, of course.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Julius at midfield

    Putting height discussion aside; MB has the potential to be All Pro, AB already is and runs great routes, if MW learns the slot and SC transitions with Bell we’ve got weapons all over the place. None of these ifs are inconceivable. Saw SC last year, he never backed down from SEC defenses, MB has the gifts and the total package and MW is learning and improving. The bigger key is Ben developing chemistry with them as a group and I believe we’re going to see Ben’s best next 2-3 years. With our absurdly tough schedule it’s imperative we win the division, may not be a wildcard from AFCN and then do a lot of damage in the playoffs. AFCCG or bust.

  • Conserv_58

    Antonio, James Harrison and Kelvin Beachum proved that size does not matter. Production does. It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.

  • Heather Danis

    Your point about SC and what he will eventually add to the WR corps, barring injury, is precisely why I think the FO targeted him in draft. They only visited with him and Jaelen Strong who most believed would be drafted in 1-2 round. SC was thought to be a late 2nd/3rd rounder. Both have similar measurables and skills but Jaelen had more consistent catch focus. The FO wanted talented depth, more match-up options in 3-wide sets, and a more threatening 4-wide set when needed. With the hardest ranked schedule this year, more weapons to score points with would be a huge benefit. Don’t think it was chance in the draft; firmly believe they were going to get one of those 2 WRs in 3rd. Like MB last year, he may not get in games until later in season but we’ll see how he does in pre-season. DHB may simply be STs only this year while they use SC in a limited route tree.

  • LucasY59

    Coates has the Strength, Speed and Physicality to be good on ST’s like DHB also

  • LucasY59

    Goodwin is another big fast guy (that can make crazy catches) DHB is big and fast also (but just makes you crazy when he doesnt make catches) and from what I’ve heard Rogers has some AB to him,

    Its a Crowded WR group, if Bryant and Coates turn out as most think, Wheaton might be the odd man out (and that is nothing against Markus, because he has been impressive as well) Archer is another guy to throw in the mix and if they want to get really crazy they can pick up Terrelle Pryor

  • Matthew Marczi

    Sometimes it takes the handler to put the dog in the fight in the first place, and this handler had a tendency to prefer bigger dogs.