Offense all but installed
What was supposed to be the talk of Steelers' training camp isn't being discussed at all, and that might be the most encouraging sign to new coordinator Todd Haley that his offense is ready to roll.
So much for that springtime chatter that a playbook differing greatly from Bruce Arians' will require, as Ben Roethlisberger said, a Rosetta Stone translation.
Players who grew comfortable with Arians' methods aren't grumbling that the terminology is difficult to learn or overwhelmingly complex. That might be because Haley is employing a “less is more approach” in which players aren't being avalanched but asked to get comfortable — and good — at what they're doing.
Players surely liked this message from Haley following the game in Philadelphia: The playbook is essentially finished.
“Not a lot of new is going to be showing up,” Haley said Sunday. “Now, we've got to fine-tune, get good and figure out what we do real well.”
The Steelers didn't do much schematically against the Eagles, partly because the teams play again Oct. 7. Staying with three basic formations, Haley estimates he called only six run plays and 10 to 12 pass plays.
“That's pretty extreme,” Haley said of the slimmed-down scheme. “The regular season, I think, we will expand a little more.”
One challenge for Haley is opening the playbook enough for players to become proficient with it but not provide a regular-season blueprint for opponents.
“You've got to worry about yourselves first, making sure that, No. 1, you're able to evaluate the guys, yet not doing too much so that the guys who aren't getting a ton of reps, you can actually look at them,” Haley said. “Secondly, it's working on the things we're going to do as a team and getting efficient at those things.”
Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Jerrod Johnson threw screen pass after screen pass. Haley believes dumping off the ball to a back will reduce the sacks Roethlisberger takes.
“(Screens have) been an emphasis for us, and you've seen us work out here in drills and in practice,” Haley said. “We want to get a bunch of them called in the real action and see if we can't get pretty efficient at it because it can be a real weapon.”
During a time when four-receiver formations are common, the Steelers always employed at least one tight end in Philadelphia. It wasn't a coincidence because, as Haley said, “We do like to have some form of a tight end out there.”
Haley was pleased with first-round draft pick David DeCastro and wasn't discouraged that rookie left tackle Mike Adams allowed multiple sacks.
“Mike got beat a couple of times but, at the same time, we thought he was one of our better guys in the run game,” Haley said.
Haley also said the pregame preparation — minimal for the Eagles — will ramp up each week.
“It will get closer to a real game week,” he said. “Last week we didn't have game plan books or anything, but this week we will have a little more than that to give them more of an idea how we will handle it in-season.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.