LATROBE (93-7 The Fan) – Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley sat down with “The Fan Morning Show” on Friday at training camp.
Haley will be without one of his biggest weapons to start the season in Le’Veon Bell, but will his game plan change without him in the fold?
“No,” Haley said. “I think we’re going to go business-as-usual.”
He’ll also be missing recently-retired tight end Heath Miller, which will be a loss for the offense in more ways than one.
“One of my favorite players of all time,” Haley said. “And there will be a lot of times that we probably miss him, even in this process here, because just the on-the-field and the off-the-field, especially, just what a calming force, professional (he is). But, we’ve been going through that all spring, and I think it’s time for [our new group of tight ends]. I’m excited about that group. But, I do think that it’s a group that needs to step up pretty quickly and give everybody confidence that they’re ready to go. As we’ve said a number of times, it’s not going to be one guy that replaces a Heath Miller.”
With Miller gone and Martavis Bryant suspended for the entire season, Markus Wheaton will become a much more crucial cog in the Steelers’ wide receiving corps, and Haley has high homes for him.
“We’re excited about Markus,” Haley said. “As [last] season progressed, even though Markus wasn’t putting up the type of numbers that he probably would have liked, he showed a lot of mental toughness, and the ability to just stay the course, keep working, be ready, and then as we got towards the back half of the season, I thought he really stepped up and made a lot of plays for us. And I thought that, again, having coached that position a long time, some guys go the other way and crack in that position, other guys like him, he excelled, and I thought that was real exciting.”
Sophomore wideout Sammie Coates, who will likely man the slot, impressed Haley too.
“He’s worked as hard as anybody in the offseason,” Haley said. “Every time you went in the building, whether it was a workday, non-workday, offseason, whatever – he was there. And when you see those kinds of things, it gives you confidence, and it gives the players around him confidence.”
And of course, there’s always the surefire Antonio Brown, whose work ethic is second-to-none.
“He’s easy to coach,” Haley said. “Because I believe that great players want to be pushed, and they want to be pushed to be better each and every day, and I think that’s a true sign of the great players in this league over time. And he’d be down on you if you weren’t pushing him every single day…the guys works harder than anybody I’ve ever been around, ever…he wants to be pushed, and he wants to be the greatest.”
Finally, Haley shared his thoughts on the development of Alejandro Villanueva, the easy-to-like Army veteran who has made an impressive transition to the offensive line. That move may culminate with him opening this season as the starter at left tackle after he filled that role last season following Kelvin Beachum’s injury.
“As the season progressed, everybody gained great confidence – including Ben (Roethlisberger) – in Al,” Haley said. “Each new thing he saw, he may not have got it the first time, but the next time he saw it…he got it. So, again, another guy that was always in the building. He looks physically better every time you see him, and mentally, he’s obviously in it to (the point where) we can’t keep him out of the building, to the point of like, physically, hey, you’ve got to leave…that’s a great quality to have. So, I think everybody has confidence that he can step in there and do the job.”
The interview can be heard here: