PITTSBURGH -- A significant number of Pittsburgh Steelers fans were ready to run Todd Haley out of Pittsburgh a couple of months ago, blaming him for the slow start of an offense that essentially opened the season with one arm tied behind its back.
Now, I don’t see how the Steelers can’t bring their offensive coordinator back for a third season in 2014.
The offense has steadily improved in 2013, and it has become the biggest reason for optimism that the Steelers can rebound from their first back-to-back non-winning seasons since the late 1990s.
Consider former NFL scout Matt Williamson’s take on the job Haley has done this season.
“I think the best I’ve seen Ben Roethlisberger play is with Todd Haley as his offensive coordinator,” said Williamson, an ESPN NFL analyst. “I think he’s really gotten the most out of Ben Roethlisberger.”
Even most ardent Haley critics might be hard-pressed to dispute that.
Roethlisberger has already established a new Steelers’ season record for completions (340), and the 10th-year veteran is on pace for 4,474 passing yards, which would eclipse the franchise record he set in 2009 for passing yards in a season.
Roethlisberger has never looked more in command, especially when running the Steelers’ no-huddle offense.
Continuity lends itself to that attack running smoothly and the Steelers only have two significant skill players who will be unrestricted free agents after this season, wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery.
An offense that isn’t expected to experience much turnover in the offseason, especially relative to the defense, shouldn’t undergo a lot of coaching changes if it wants to build on this season.
And that starts with Haley.
Roethlisberger himself has said how excited he is over the direction of the offense, something he reiterated on Wednesday.
“I think production has gone up and I think that the mistakes have really come down,” Roethlisberger said. “I think guys enjoy doing it. I’m sure if you ask the receivers they say they like it. Le'Veon [Bell] likes it, mixing in the run and the pass so it’s not just pass-heavy.
"I think just being able to take what Coach gives helps me with and what we, whether it’s [quarterbacks] coach Randy [Fichtner] and coach Todd [Haley], the other quarterbacks, we put so much work in. I know I get a lot of credit, but it’s all of us really. This is a lot about communication.”