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Q&A with Todd Haley

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Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley talked to the media for the first time since offseason practices began last month. Haley, who replaced Bruce Arians, covers a broad spectrucm of topic in this 10-minute interview.

Q: HOW IS TEACHING THE NEW OFFENSE COMING?
A: “It’s going very well. That is what this time of the year is for. I have to take my hat off to all the offensive coaches because we have been to work here since February pretty hard and haven’t really looked up much. We have done a lot of work in the building that now we can take outside the building. We feel that it is a good offense and our offense but we have a long way to go.”

Q: WHY IS IT DIFFICULT FOR PLAYERS TO LEARN A NEW OFFENSE?
A: “Football is football. Terminology is the issue, really. Philosophically, you spell out to your guys how you want to play football and then it is about them understanding the language. We coaches are creatures of habit. You can go around the league and hear a lot of the same words but the problem is when they don’t mean the same thing. You try to avoid those situations where guys are having to translate language-to-language and concept-to-concept. That is what we were doing in the offseason – making sure we were doing the right thing to give our guys the best chance to succeed.”

Q: YOU ARE WHERE YOU WANT TO BE RIGHT NOW
A: “I feel that we are. We have a long way to go but through this stage I feel good about where we are. I think our guys feel good about where we are – coaches and players. Next week will be a real big week for us because what we are going to do is backtrack and re-do exactly what we did again. It will be the third time they are hearing. In Phase I in the little bit of field work we were able to do, we installed it once then so this is second time through and next week will be our third and training camp will be fourth.

Q: HOW IS BEN DOING WITH THE OFFENSE?
A: “Just like everybody else. He is learning and is concentrating and working hard on it and is making progress. He is obviously a great player and will continue to be a great player. I am excited about the opportunity of working here with Ben and really all these guys. It is really a good group of quarterbacks.”

Q: CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR OFFENSE
A: “You want me to tell everybody that right now? We want to be a physical group whether we are throwing it or running it. We want to be a smart group and it is coach speak, but we want to be a discipline group. If we are that with the guys we have out here working, in my estimation, we have a chance to be pretty good.”

Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE RUNNING BACKS?
A: “I am excited about our running back group. Rashard is working hard on the side to get back and we haven’t been able to see him but I’ve seen enough of him of what he is and will be capable of. The guys here are working hard and they are a good versatile group which I like. We have some big guys and some guys who can player on the perimeter so it is a nice combination.”

Q: HAS IT BEEN MORE DIFFICULT FOR THE OLDER GUYS TO LEARN?
A: “This goes on each and every year. Like I said, as the season evolves and things change and you come up with words and at the end of the year you have to clean it up and kind of get back to basics and that’s what we’ve done. We have tried to do it as a group to make it the most sense possible for everybody involved and not just me. This is not my offense. This is our offense and we worked hard to get to the point of where we are.”

Q: WILL OFFENSE BE THAT MUCH DIFFERENT
A: “I really can’t answer that. Football is football and we are going to play at our strengths and what we do well we are going to try to do even better and push the envelope that way and see how good we can be.”

Q: ANY APPREHENSION FROM PLAYERS IN THE CHANGE
A: “It is not for me to answer, really. Change is not always comfortable and we said that right out of the gate. Some times when there are changes and there were changes and that’s a way to keep guys on their toes and keep their focus on the understanding of what the goal is and that is to win Super Bowls. Win one this year is our goal. That won’t change. We are going to have to do it predominantly with the guys we have here. They are into it, competitive and competing against the defense, which is fun to watch on some days yet we are still keeping it in a learning phase of getting the guys to understand it conceptually and philosophically on how we are going to play.”

Q: AT YOUR OTHER STOPS, HOW LONG DID IT TAKE THE QB TO GRASP THE SYSTEM
A: “You use all this time. It will be training camp and then it will be the real preseason games before anybody is totally comfortable. That is each and every year you are making enough changes that guys have to learn and you have personnel changes that affect how you play. That’s how it is going. We will use all this time. I am exited about it and I feel like the guys are ready excited about it and feel the guys can make progress.”

Q: ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT BEN SEEMS SO CONCERNED ABOUT THE LEARNING CURVE?
A: “I haven’t sensed any of that concern, at least me personally. He’s in here, he’s working hard. He’s into it — even the days when he hasn’t practiced, he’s over my shoulder, talking, commenting, discussing and those are all, that’s what I’ve seen out of all the good quarterbacks — really good quarterbacks — I’ve been around act like. And I’m just excited about his and our opportunity. He’s a guy who’s been a very good player and we’re going to try to keep that going and get even better.”

Q: THE WORD ON THE STREET IS THAT YOU ARE A FIERY GUY. HAVE SEEN THESE GUYS SEEN THAT YET?
A: “No, no. I don’t flip that switch until a little later (laughs). This
is offseason for them, (time) to just learn and get in shape, get in
condition and then in training camp, we’ll pick it up a notch.”

Q: DO YOU HAVE AN EMPHASIS ON KEEPING BEN HEALTHY AND WHAT CAN YOU DO TO DO THAT?
A: “I think that will always be the emphasis, any quarterback you have, is to keep hits off of them. I think that’s just smart football. And you do it in a number of ways and a lot of it falls on his shoulders also. One of his greatest weapons is his ability to make plays when things break down. And that will put him in duress at times _ but at the same time, it’s one of the best things he does and it’s what separates him from all the other guys in the league for the most part. So you don’t want to take that great ability away from him. It’s just that understanding of what’s going on, understand when we want the ball coming out quick, understand when we want to run it… and that’s all going on right now. We’re just building the team philosophy. Like I said, part of this is evaluation because we do have a lot of new guys out there and we’re trying to evaluate what each and every one of them does to use them to their abilities.”

Q: DID BEN TAKE THE DAY OFF?
A: “He had some personal matter that he had to attend to.”

Q: HOW WILL YOU USE CHRIS RAINEY?
A: “He’s a young guy, but what I didn’t really realize coming in because I hadn’t seen him much is Baron Batch is another unique player at that position. Like I’ve said, we’ve got a good, diverse group. You’ve kind of got all the parts you’d like as a coordinator, anyway… You’ve got some big backs who can run it hard up the middle, some quicker, faster backs who can play outside a little for you, so I’m excited about the group in general, and Chris is just one of those guys, and he looks like he wants to be a part of this.”

Q: CAN MIKE WALLACE PICK UP OFFENSE QUICKLY?
A: “He’ll be behind a little bit but he has to pick it up. We’ll make
sure that occurs.”

Q: IS IT TOO EARLY TO TELL WHAT YOU HAVE WITH YOUR OFFENSIVE LINE?
A: “We don’t have pads on. You know something about the guys who have been here. Obviously Pouncey and Gilbert and Willie and those guys, and they’re experienced, really good players. And now we’ve added some young guys into the mix who are going to compete. But really other than what we’ve seen out of college tape some of them and some of these younger developmental guys who have been here but who haven’t played as much, we need to get the pads on to really make a full evaluation. But I think we’re all excited. We’ve got a lot of guys who have been and want to continue to be part of something great. And that’s the goal and it will start with them.”

Q: DAVID JOHNSON’S MOVE TO FULLBACK
A: “David is doing a very good job and the thought process there with David is that he knows tight and is comfortable at tight end. Fullback is something that is obviously we didn’t have that body-type here. It is a position that if you are playing, you have to be back there on a full-time basis at least in the learning stages. We know David can move both directions and that will give him great value especially as a game day roster type guy. When you have a guy who can do a couple different things, that’s a bonus. He is has jumped headfirst into the fullback stuff knowing he is in the learning stage of trying to get as much as he can, but it doesn’t mean he won’t line up at tight end either.”

• Mark Kaboly
• Published: June 6, 2:10 p.m.
• @MarkKaboly_Trib

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Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly covers the Pittburgh Steelers for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 250 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as three Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa and XLV in Dallas. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer, and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

 
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