PITTSBURGH — While QB Ben Roethlisberger continues to whine about the difficulties of learning the Steelers new offense installed by OC Todd Haley…… Haley hasn’t sensed any concern from Ben.
“I haven’t sensed any of that concern, ” Haley said today about Ben expressing concerns. “He’s into it and even on days he’s not practicing, he’s over my shoulder talking, commenting, and discussing, and that’s what I’ve seen out of all the good quarterbacks, really good quarterbacks. He’s progressing and I’m excited about working with Ben.”
Ben who earlier this off-season said the offense is like learning Rosetta Stone, sat out his third OTA practice today due to a personal matter.
Roethlisberger last week told Joe Starkey of 937 The Fan that fans will get their wish with this offense moving to a run first team under Haley.
However, few believe that will actually come to fruition but two changes fans should expect to see in the passing game includes:
*Running backs being a focal point in the passing game. It’s a priority in this offense under Haley to use RB’s out of the backfield as a weapon in the passing game. It’s led to 5th rounder Chris Rainey possibly playing a bigger than expected role in the offense. Rainey has been among the stars of OTA’s. Haley is very high on Rainey but Baron Batch has also caught Haley’s eye. “What I didn’t realize coming in because I hadn’t seen him much is Baron Batch is another unique player at that position, ” Haley said when asked about Rainey, while giving Batch some praise.
*Quick Passing Game – Haley is emphasizing a quick passing game which has Roethlisberger making shorter drops and staying in the pocket more but Roethlisberger will still have full rein to make plays out of the pocket.
One prominent member of the Steelers O-line believes the Steelers new playbook is a big upgrade over last years playbook under Bruce Arians. “I think this playbook is a lot better than last year’s, ” tackle Marcus Gilbert said.
On Running Backs:“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 and what he is and will be capable of. The guys here are working hard and they are a good versatile group which I like.”
On Style of Offense: “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.”
On Keeping Ben Healthy: “I think that will always be the emphasis, any quarterback you have is to keep hits off 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 the 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 of away from him.”
Steelers O-line coach Sean Kugler said today he would like have his starting five in place by training camp. However, that’s going to be tough to accomplish due to the uncertainty surrounding rookie Mike Adams who is penciled in at left tackle.
Kugler indicated Adams will split time in mini camp at left tackle with the first and second team, while David DeCastro will work at right guard with the first and second teams.
DeCastro and Adams who have not been able to participate in OTA’s due to school, have been given playbooks and are in constant contact with the coaching staff.
Kugler also said that Marcus Gilbert will see time at left and right tackle going into training camp. The hope for the Steelers is to keep Gilbert at right tackle and let him continue to grow there but Gilbert has made it known he would love to get a shot at left tackle.
Gilbert entering his second season is motivated to have a special season. “I’m trying to become one of the premier tackles in the league, ” Gilbert said.
The Steelers hope is for the starting O-line to evolve into LT Mike Adams – LG Willie Colon – C Maurkice Pouncey – RG David DeCastro – RT Marcus Gilbert
— Todd Haley doesn’t appear very concerned about Mike Wallace being behind with the new offense. Wallace has yet to sign his tender as he seeks a new long-term deal, was given a playbook a few weeks ago. “He’ll be behind a little bit but he has to pick up and we’ll make sure that occurs, ” Haley said.
— Sean Kugler mentioned today about Willie Colon being a good fit inside at left guard because of the AFC North being dominated by 3-4 schemes. “He’s got the strength and ability to match up with those guys, ” Kugler said.
—David Johnson has been moved to fullback but that doesn’t mean he won’t line up at tight end. “David’s doing a very good job and the thought process there with David is that he knows tight end and is comfortable at tight end, ” Haley said. “He 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, ” Haley said.
— James Harrison continues to be limited during OTA’s.