Tomlin ‘not ready’ to endorse OC Haley
Playoff loss has Steelers facing change
PITTSBURGH — Todd Haley’s contract as the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers is up.
And coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t sound as if he’s in a rush to decide whether Haley will be back next season.
Tomlin sidestepped several attempts to endorse Haley’s return on Tuesday as the AFC North champions continued to dissect what went wrong in an upset home playoff loss to Jacksonville. Asked if he anticipated any changes to his staff, Tomlin demurred.
“I don’t know where these roads are going to lead,” Tomlin said. “Some contracts are up. Some aren’t. I’m not ready to discuss that.”
Haley just finished his sixth season with the Steelers and has helped design one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses.
Led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell and All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (13-3) has finished in the top three in total yards in three of the past four years.
Though Haley and Roethlisberger have found a level of detente following a somewhat bumpy start to their relationship, Haley’s occasionally fiery approach has made him a touchstone when things don’t go well.
While the Steelers piled up more than 500 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked defense on Sunday, they also made a couple of curious play calls on fourth down that halted their momentum.
Bell was stuffed for a loss on a toss play when Pittsburgh needed just 1 yard in the first quarter and Roethlisberger threw incomplete to rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster on fourth down in the fourth quarter when advancing the ball a matter of inches would have extended the drive.
The Steelers, however, have gone away from using the quarterback sneak in recent years to help Roethlisberger avoid the contact.
Tomlin brushed off the notion that the sneak is no longer a part of the playbook, saying “to suggest there’s a resistance to it in concept, I’m not ready to say that.”
Tomlin also isn’t ready to say much about his staff.
Offensive line coach Mike Munchak has interviewed for the open head coaching job in Arizona and wide receivers coach Richard Mann is retiring.
Hines Ward, a two-time Super Bowl winner who is also the leading receiver in franchise history, spent time with the team during the season as a volunteer assistant, though Tomlin declined to get into any specifics about any sort of future role for Ward or anybody else for that matter.
“I’m not going to have a lot of definitive answers (right now),” Tomlin said. “I don’t want to provide you misinformation.”
Tomlin called his 11th season a “wild and challenging and fun ride.”
One with more than its fair share of bumps created from within.
From the “botched” decision to stay out of sight during the national anthem in Chicago in September to wide receiver Martavis Bryant’s trade demand to Tomlin openly talking about having to face New England twice — hinting he expected the Steelers to face the Patriots in the AFC championship game more than a month before it would become a reality — hardly a week passed with the attention focused somewhere other than the field.
“We realize oftentimes it may create a storm around us, but that’s not us,” Tomlin said. “We don’t care. We can’t care. We can’t control it anyway.”
Outside of linebacker Ryan Shazier’s life-altering spinal injury, the Steelers created most of the noise that surrounded them.
While Tomlin said it’s on him to help his players learn to use the attention directed at them and their own social media agendas “for good” he’s also aware that none of it matters so long as his team wins.
For a franchise where success is only measured in Lombardi Trophies, 2017 ended in disappointment, one the Steelers will have a longer than expected offseason to process.
“It ended the way it ended and looking back at it, there’s nothing we can do about that other than learn from the experience,” Tomlin said. “Hopefully that strengthens us for our next journey.”
One the Steelers are starting earlier than expected.