Warner: Coordinator Haley good for Big Ben

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley during practice at St. Vincent College July 31, 2012.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley during practice at St. Vincent College July 31, 2012.
Photo by Chaz Palla | Tribune Review
| Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

NEW ORLEANS — Kurt Warner is offering friendly advice to Ben Roethlisberger.

Warner knows Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley's system better than anyone. He ran it for two productive seasons, one that ended with a last-minute Super Bowl loss to the Steelers. He knows what makes it go.

Warner believes Roethlisberger can make it as much his offense as Warner did. All he needs is trust, a sense of entitlement and some inquisitiveness.

While Roethlisberger never fully wrapped is arms around Haley's controlled passing offense the way he did Bruce Arians' down-the-field system, he was on pace for his best season until getting hurt nine games in. Neither Roethlisberger nor the Steelers (8-8) were the same again.

“And then we have all these questions: Can the offense work? Well, we saw earlier in the year, from an offensive standpoint and having success, it can definitely work,” said Warner, now an NFL Network analyst. “But just like any offense, you have to have players buy into what you're doing and why you're doing it.”

To Warner, that's where Roethlisberger needs to take a stand: This offense isn't being forced on me; it's my offense.

Unlike a Peyton Manning or an Andrew Luck, Roethlisberger isn't known as one whose handprints are all over the playbook. He will follow the game plan but, at times, prefers to rely on his instincts and improvisational ability.

“He came out at one point and said, ‘It's just a dink-and-dunk offense.' And maybe it is compared to what he had done,” Warner said. “But (he should ask), ‘Why are we doing this? How does this benefit me? How does this play to my strengths? If the offense didn't play to his strengths, I think it would be tough to ever buy in. But I do believe it plays to his strengths.”

Warner said the misconception is Haley's offense — at least his Steelers offense — de-emphasizes the deep throw.

“They can eliminate hits and then they can take chances down the field, which is what Ben is so good at,” Warner said. “(The short passes) eliminate the risk factor of him having to get hit over and over again. Not just the risk factor for Ben but the risk factor for the team that when Ben doesn't play, this team is a different team.”

Warner threw for 3,417 yards despite making only 11 starts in 2007, then went 401 of 598 — yes, almost 600 attempts — for 4,583 yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in the 2008 Super Bowl season.

“I think Todd's offense can be a good fit for any quarterback. What I know about Todd is he has the ability to change the way he runs an offense,” Warner said. “When we were together, we threw the ball down the field a lot. But we complemented that with a lot of the short-passing game — and we were limited at our offensive line position.

“It was understood, ‘Hey, we can't just drop back seven steps and try to wing the ball down the field all the time. I think when he went to Pittsburgh, he said the same thing: ‘I can't let Ben get hit this much, he's too important to our football team. So we're going to manage it.' ”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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