Reporting Colin Dunlap
You aren’t going to want to do this.
Actually, you are loathe to do this — downright hate doing it and abhor arriving at this point.
But you have to, if only for one day.
Are you ready?
Take a deep breath then exhale.
OK, here we go with it … time to give Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley some credit.
Say it again, just to make sure you believe those words — it is time to give Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley some credit.
Alright, don’t go overboard, don’t go crazy and think about throwing him a parade, but make no mistake, for what he did on Sunday as the Steelers notched their first win of the season in a 19-6 victory over the Jets, Haley needs to be lauded.
At least a little bit.
It’s a start for him, right? For your performance to be liked a little is better than for it to be hated a lot, which had been the pervasive theme for Haley last year and then over the first four games of this season before the Steelers got that first win on Sunday.
No one has any idea what will happen to Haley as this season progresses, what fate he might meet at the end of the season if the Steelers continue to win just once in five chances or if his name keeps appearing on court documents, but one thing is certain: In the victory against the Jets, he actually looked like he knew what he was doing at times.
Commanding an offense beset by a hackneyed offensive line, Haley called plays wherein quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to whip the ball out quickly and stay clean for the most part. Using such a controlled passing game, Haley’s offense gained 8.2 yards per pass, went for 255 yards of passing and 328 yards overall.
The offense didn’t turn the ball over and possessed it for almost 36 minutes.
When you jumble all those numbers together, do they come out to an offensive performance that lights the world on fire? Not even close.
But, considering the depths of some of the routines we’ve seen from Haley, this was a masterpiece; chef d’oeuvre stuff with the pigskin.
And there was that one playcall that rose mightily above the others, with the Steelers locked in a field goal tug-of-war, leading the Jets, 9-6, just after halftime.
With third-and-1 near midfield, the secure call would have been to try to muscle — however inadequate that line — on the ground for a first down.
Instead, Haley gambled and called a pass and, 55 yards later, receiver Emmanuel Sanders was cruising into the end zone to give his team a 10-point advantage.
“I saw Emmanuel running by himself,” Roethlisberger said. “I had to hesitate for a second because I couldn’t believe he was so open.”
But he was. Make no mistake, part of that was because of Sanders’ ability to slice through the Jets’ defense, but there was more to it.
A big part of it — maybe the biggest part — was because of Haley’s capacity to take a risk in that situation and call such a play.
“I thought Coach Haley, that was a great call on his part,” Roethlisberger said. “Great call. If they saw something (on tape before the game) I don’t know, but when he called it, I was a little hesitant at first. I thought we should have just grinded it up in there … but when we broke the huddle I thought this was a good play call and this could be good for us.”
The jury is still way out on whether or not Todd Haley can be good for the Steelers in the long haul.
However, on Sunday in the win over the Jets, Haley seemed to be more solution than problem and, as tough as it might be for many of us to do, he should probably get a little credit.
Even if it only lasts for one day.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.