The NFL’s true “off season” might be fast approaching, but Todd Haley is already at work presenting his new offense to Steelers coaches and players.
While its way too early to draw conclusions, the early reactions are something to take note of.
Ben Roethlisberger suggested that to understand the new offense, he might need the Rosetta Stone. Emmanuel Sanders confirmed via Twitter that more than 90% of the offense had changed.
In interviews Todd Haley, while making it clear he was going to install his own system, also let it be known that he didn’t expect too the changes to be too profound. He emphasized that he broke into the coaching ranks with Bill Parcells, whose playbook was similar to that of Ron Erhardt.
The late Ron Erhardt, who served as Steelers offensive coordinator from 1992 to 1995, established many of the fundamentals that have guided the Steelers on offense since then.
That’s What the All Say, Isn’t It?
Of course this is not the first time we’ve heard that the Steelers offense has been radically changed while remaining consistent with previous incarnations.
It’s true that Ray Sherman was basically asked to come in and run the Steelers existing offense in 1998, and the results were disastrous. Kevin Gilbride was in a year later and given a much more free hand. Yet Gilbride insisted that because of his ties to the “Tom Coughlin/Bill Parcells coaching line” that his play numbering system would be similar.
Similarity or not, Kordell Stewart and the rest of the players had a difficult time with an offense that required quarterbacks and receivers to read the pre-snap coverage and make automatic adjustments to routes at the line of scrimmage.
Its Like Learning a New Language
One of the more disturbing things coming out of Ed Bouchette’s article was “For Roethlisberger and the rest of the veterans on offense, it's like learning a new language....”
The Steelers have had experiences with new offensive coordinators who’ve tried to come in and change the language. And it didn’t work.
The experience of course was with Joe Walton in 1990, who came in and completely changed the offense from technique, to play calling, to vocabulary. That did not sit well with the players, who resisted, most notably, Bubby Brister, who actively resisted.
That prior experience is certainly not one that Haley is doomed to repeat.
While players admit it’s a change, all of them remain upbeat. And Todd Haley is known for tailoring his offense to the strength of his personnel, as opposed to Walton who insisted on attempting to force a system that ill-suited his players' talents.
Apparently some talk radio hosts in the Pittsburgh area are already starting to fan the flames of a supposed rift between Roethlisberger and Haley. As the site Nice Pick Cowher has pointed out, such reactions are totally unfounded at this point.
The evolution of the new offense and all the change it implies, nonetheless remain a story to keep an eye on.