LATROBE, Pa. – For a guy who is supposed to be a powder keg, new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley sounds a lot more powder puff these days. Hopefully that bodes well for his developing relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Haley, whose screaming jags have become a trademark over the past five years as he worked his way up to offensive coordinator in Arizona and head coach for two turbulent years in Kansas City, has made an erstwhile return home. He, his wife and their five children are building a home in the town where he spent his childhood. The son of former Steelers player and personnel man Dick Haley, Todd is trying to put down roots in a profession that's akin to hydroponics.
One associate asked Haley recently if building a house was a good idea. Haley responded that he hoped this was his last stop.
"I'll be here as long as they'll have me," said Haley, who's replacing longtime Steelers coordinator Bruce Arians.
Just how long that is will largely depend on how well Haley gets along with Roethlisberger, a fiery passer who the Steelers aren't sure how to handle. While Roethlisberger has traded his troubled single days for a seemingly settled approach (his wife was at training camp with him Wednesday as they went to lunch and dinner together), there is always some drama with him.
Wednesday featured the latest example as he "revealed" that he had a small tear in the rotator cuff of his right arm. As he explained, the tear happened in Week 6 of last season and he had no ill effects because he followed a rehab regimen. Furthermore, the tear is not unusual for NFL quarterbacks (and folks of other occupations who make their living hurling objects).
As one Steelers executive put it half-jokingly, "That's Ben, there's always some drama."
And that's also why so many people have wondered aloud about how Haley and Roethlisberger will get along. An emotional collision between Haley and Roethlisberger could be a problem. Furthermore, a philosophical divide between the team (the Steelers are trying to get back to their running roots) and Roethlisberger (one of the league's best deep throwers) could be a second-coming of Chuck Noll vs. Terry Bradshaw.
Roethlisberger said Wednesday the relationship is "great" and that stories about him and Haley not communicating earlier in the offseason were overblown because people didn't understand the NFL rules.
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"There are a lot of rules the league has about how much you can talk in the offseason, so we didn't want to break any of those rules because we know how the league cracks down on that stuff," Roethlisberger explained.
Haley believes the outside world doesn't understand the method to his madness. In previous stops, Haley was walking into rebuilding situations that required more attitude.
"The general public doesn't know if that's contrived or not contrived and over the years you have seen a lot of coaches who have shown emotion," Haley said. "I take a great deal of pride in my passion for the game, but it was also what the situation dictated at the time."
On top of that, Haley joked, there is a personal factor that occasionally drives him over the edge. Of his five children, four are girls with the oldest at age 15.
"I want my girls' potential boyfriends to think I'm a crazy lunatic," Haley said. "I was talking to [defensive coordinator Dick] LeBeau, who has been known to lose it on the sideline from time to time and I said I do it for the potential men in the future of my daughters' lives, so I won't have to lift and stay in shape all the time."
In all seriousness, Haley said that while he has a philosophy about the relationship between him and his players, the idea that he's out of control is overstated. It is more about circumstance.
"People come up and say, 'Wow, you seem like a nice guy.' I am and I'm with a team that's won a lot of games," said Haley, fired in the midst of the Chiefs' 7-9 campaign last season. "[The Steelers] won 12 games last year, so I'll coach to how the situation dictates. You can't be a robot and be the same guy every day. You have to adjust to the guys you have and the situation you're in."
There is plenty of truth to that. Over the previous eight years, Haley has bounced from Dallas to Arizona to Kansas City. Each stop had its issues.
The Cowboys were a circus, where owner Jerry Jones and coach Bill Parcells battled over control of the roster. At one point, Haley butted heads with wide receiver Terrell Owens, a classic confrontation of Haley's live-wire style vs. Owens' temperamental side.
Then came a stint in Arizona, where Haley helped the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl despite ownership's cheap approach. Finally there was Kansas City, where Haley and general manager Scott Pioli went to war despite the fact that Haley led the Chiefs to the playoffs in his first season  and struggled last year after injuries to top players Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki.
Each of those places needed a change of approach and Haley's fiery style came out in the process.
Now comes the Steelers, a place where winning is ahead of everything, even at a time when the NFL has put marketing at the forefront. Haley sat in a meeting recently that featured the coaches, executives, marketing people and other employees.
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As the meeting was set to begin, team president Art Rooney, whose family qualifies as football royalty, set the tone. All those great marketing ideas can wait. There is one priority with the Steelers. Win. Do that and everything else falls into place, including the relationships.
"This organization is completely focused on winning," Haley said. "I think first and foremost in a coach-player relationship, you have to be coach. There are people who have done it other ways, but I believe you have to coach first and hopefully through time and successes a level of respect is gained on both sides. I take a great deal of pride that some of my closest friends are people that I coached, Kurt Warner, Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn and Larry Fitzgerald. Those are guys I communicate with on a regular basis, go out to see and hang out with. But at the time, I coached them and they responded as players."
The Steelers hope Roethlisberger joins that list.
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