New Steelers offensive coordinator Haley is eager for new start
He invoked the Immaculate Reception, which he said he remembers watching as a kid. He called the Steelers "the greatest organization in the NFL," and Todd Haley now occupies a unique place in the only organization to win six Super Bowls.
But Haley, a one-time Steelers ball boy who is now running the offense, offered much more than nostalgia Thursday at his introductory news conference.
"If you are sensitive," Haley said, "this is probably not the best place to be."
The Steelers' new offensive coordinator didn't serve that up as a warning as much as he braced players under his charge for the in-your-face coaching style that has become one of his signatures.
His return to Pittsburgh — Haley grew up here and graduated from Upper St. Clair High — will be watched closely for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the Ben Roethlisberger factor.
The Steelers' franchise quarterback must adjust to a new offense for the first time since 2007. He must also get used to an offensive coordinator that isn't Bruce Arians.
Roethlisberger and Arians enjoyed a close relationship that transcended football, and Roethlisberger received a jolt when the Steelers forced out Arians after the season.
Adding to the intrigue of how Roethlisberger will work with a new offensive coordinator is Haley's reputation for being fiery and combustible — the latter of which has led to some made-for-YouTube sideline confrontations.
Haley downplayed how his demanding approach will mesh with a veteran quarterback who has won two Super Bowls. Roethlisberger was at the Steelers' South Side practice facility Thursday, but he and Haley had yet to meet.
"There's an uncomfortable aspect to newness, but that's not always a bad thing," Haley said. "I think it will be a great thing in this case, and he's going to figure out I'm just trying to make him as good as he possibly can be, and not many players I know have ever had an issue with that.
"It's about the end result. If they know you have their goals in mind, and they all want to be great players, as good as they can possibly be, once they figure that out, that that is what you care about, it is a non-issue, generally."
Haley has extensive NFL coaching experience, and he served for almost three seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs' head coach before being fired in December.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Haley's resume isn't all that intrigued him during a search that he called thorough.
Haley's "genuine love" for the Steelers played a part in his joining the organization that his father, Dick, served as a director of player personnel from 1971-90, Tomlin said.
Tomlin also said Haley's "intangibles" impressed him.
"Here's a man that knows what it's about to be a Pittsburgh Steeler," said Tomlin, who introduced Haley on Thursday but didn't field questions during the news conference. "I'll always be interested in guys that know what the standard of the Pittsburgh Steelers are all about."
It didn't take Haley long to demonstrate that he is intimately familiar with that standard. When asked if he plans to put more of an emphasis on the running game, Haley smiled.
"Emphasis on winning," Haley said. "There is a very high expectation here in the city of Pittsburgh. I understand what is expected from the fans and the city of Pittsburgh. The Steelers are just such a great part of this town, and that is where my excitement is, to come back and be a part of this great tradition."