By Chris Adamski
LATROBE — In the Steelers news vacuums that are the time between the end of the season and the draft and the time between the draft and training camp, nothing has been more dissected than the offense’s ability to adjust to new coordinator Todd Haley’s system.
After every OTA, every minicamp workout and now every training camp practice, players (and coaches) are asked time and again if they are learning the new scheme.
In the end, is everyone making this transition out to be way more complicated than it is?
“I’ve always been a less-is-more guy for the most part,” Haley said.
Some players have speculated that, after seeing Kansas City’s offense on tape in recent years (Haley was previously the head coach of the Chiefs), Haley has made the offense simpler by design so that the learning curve is less pronounced. When that theory was broached to Haley, he didn’t deny the offense might have been simplified. He just had a vastly different explanation as to why.
“If you have quality players that can win in one-on-one matchups, let’s not overcomplicate it,” said Haley, whose 2011 Chiefs were talent-depleted on offense. “They’ve proven this has been a good offense and can be a good — and hopefully better — offense, and that’s all we’re working for.
“Everything we’ve done has been as a staff and trying to go back to ground zero and give these guys the best chance to succeed. And to this point we feel good about our start. There’s a lot of things we still need to continue to clean up but there’s enough good to feel good about what’s happening.”
As has been pointed out many times, this is the players’ third go-round kicking the tires on the offense, dating back to OTAs and minicamp. Haley intentionally has been going over things at a rudimentary level each time, so as to not leave anybody behind.
As Haley said Tuesday, every player picks up things at his own pace. Frankly, some offensive players already know the calls in and out. Much of it is merely a change in terminology. In layman’s terms, under Bruce Arians, one play could have several different variations to it, tackle Max Starks explained. With Haley, the verbiage has more of a direct correlation to what is supposed to be acted out on the field.
“The young guys, they’re still in keep-your-head-above-water mode,” Haley said. “A lot is being thrown at them, but they’re handling it well to this point. There’s a long way to go (before the season opener), thankfully.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger relayed a story from the Tuesday morning walkthrough in which he and tight end Heath Miller were initially feeling pretty good about themselves for being on the same wavelength practicing a play… only to find out from the coaches that BOTH of them were wrong.
“We’re still getting there,” Roethlisberger said. “But that’s what walkthroughs are for — to learn and kind of refresh our memory before we go to practice.”
Notes: Wither Mike Wallace? Are the Steelers adding wide receiver depth because of their high-profile holdout? WR Paul Cox was signed Tuesday. Cox, a rookie from Mississippi Valley State, signed with San Diego after going undrafted but was released last week. At 6-5, he instantly becomes the Steelers’ tallest receiver, but his knock is a lack of speed. … The Steelers released rookie OT Bridger Buche. … The Steelers spent a large chunk of time during the afternoon practice Tuesday working on the no-huddle offense. … Haley was non-committal when asked who — or even what kind of running back — would fill the third-down back role. … NT Casey Hampton had a great line when asked about how “mean and nasty” LG Willie Colon is after Colon was involved in some practice skirmishes with defensive linemen early in camp: “That’s because I wasn’t out there. There’s no pushing and shoving and when I am. I ain’t doing none of that.” … Tomlin said he “anticipates” S Damon Cromartie-Smith will be removed from the PUP list Wednesday. In other injury news, TE Heath Miller (ankle) worked out more vigorously but did not return to practice for the first time since the first workout of camp. CB Keenan Lewis’ injury — initially feared as a possible longer-term issue — turned out to be “minor,” per Tomlin. Lewis was back at practice Tuesday.