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Steelers coach Tomlin made call to hire Haley as offensive coordinator

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Mike Tomlin said the decision to change offensive coordinators was his — not a "directive" from Steelers president Art Rooney II — and expects new coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to get along "great."

Tomlin, speaking publicly for the first time since Jan. 9 while at a media breakfast for AFC coaches at the NFL meetings, also said during a nearly one-hour chat is that Roethlisberger doesn't need to alter his style.

"I think Ben is Ben, and we're not going to ask him to be someone he's not," Tomlin said.

The sandlot style that has made Roethlisberger a two-time Super Bowl winner has not come without a cost.

Roethlisberger has been sacked at least 40 times every season that he has played 15 or more games. The pounding he has absorbed led Rooney to say in January that the two-time Pro Bowler needs to "tweak" his game.

Tomlin said yesterday Roethlisberger, who turned 30 this month, is not so far advanced in his career that the hits he has taken are an issue.

"That point is somewhere maybe in the future, you acknowledge that," Tomlin said, "but I don't think we're at the point where we think he's diminishing physically to the point where he has to alter his game."

That is not to say Roethlisberger won't have to make changes.

Roethlisberger enjoyed a close relationship with Arians. Now he has to build a rapport with the headstrong Haley, a former head coach who has a reputation for challenging star players, not backing down from them.

Tomlin said the two may have to work through early rough patches, but he expects Roethlisberger to flourish.

"Both guys have a desire to be great at what they do," Tomlin said. "Both guys are singularly focused on winning world championships for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that's a great place to begin."

Arians had been the Steelers' offensive coordinator since 2007, and he had been with the organization since 2004. Tomlin said Jan. 9, a day after the Steelers' playoff loss in Denver, that he expected Arians to return for the 2012 season.

Arians retired Jan. 20, but he resurfaced less than two weeks later in Indianapolis as the Colts' offensive coordinator. The unseemly transition from Arians to Haley fueled speculation that Tomlin had been ordered — or at least strongly encouraged — by Rooney to make a change after the Steelers finished tied for 21st in the NFL in scoring (20.3 points per game).

"He didn't," Tomlin said. "I hired Todd Haley as well, which is the next question, which is another funny one to me. Don't get me wrong. Art Rooney owns the football team. He can do what he wants to do, but those directives did not happen.

"Bruce served us well and was a really good football coach, but I thought it was time for change. We moved into a situation where we had an opportunity to grow and develop some young talent offensively."

Key dates

Here is the offseason schedule for the Steelers:

April 16: First day teams are allowed to start lifting program

April 27-29: NFL Draft

May 22-24: First three voluntary practices

May 29-31: Voluntary practices

June 4-7: Voluntary practices

June 12-14: Mandatory minicamp

Additional Information:

Tomlin's Take

To see excerpts from coach Mike Tomlin's comments from the AFC coaches' breakfast, go to the Steel Mill blog .

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