The Steelers have hired Todd Haley to become their next offensive coordinator.
Haley is the son of the team’s former director of player personnel Dick Haley and climbed the NFL coaching ladder to become head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009. But he was fired a year after winning the AFC West Division championship in 2010 amid charges of a bugged office and tapped cell phone.
Haley should be able to deliver on the Steelers’ desire for a balanced offense. As an offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2008 Haley’s unit finished second in the NFL in passing. As coach of the Chiefs in 2010 his team led the NFL in rushing.
Haley, who will turn 45 later this month, was born in Atlanta but raised in the Pittsburgh suburb of Upper St. Clair. His father was raised in the Pittsburgh area and attended the now defunct Midway High School in the Burgettstown-McDonald area. He was known as “The Midway Comet” before moving on to Pitt, where he played halfback and cornerback.
Dick Haley was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the ninth round of the 1959 draft but was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1961 expansion draft. The Steelers picked him up in the middle of the 1961 season and he played running back and defensive back with the team until an injury caused his release during the 1965 training camp.
Dick Haley became a scout for Jack Butler’s BLESTO in 1966 and moved to Atlanta as the organization’s southeastern scout. He and his family moved back to Pittsburgh when he rejoined the Steelers in 1971 as the director of pro personnel and helped build the dynasty in the 1970s. He left the team in 1991 after Tom Donahoe was named director of football operations. Haley joined the front office of the New York Jets a week later.
Todd Haley didn’t play football at Upper St. Clair High School or in college, but he learned to break down and analyze film during his father’s time in Pittsburgh. The former Steelers ballboy joined his father’s scouting team in New York in 1995 before moving into coaching as a quality control coach under Bill Parcells in 1997. Haley was promoted to coach the team’s wide receivers in 1999.
Todd moved on to coach wide receivers for the Chicago Bears (2001-03) and then rejoined Parcells in Dallas in 2004 as the Cowboys’ passing game coordinator.
Haley became a full-time offensive coordinator in 2007 when Ken Whisenhunt hired him in Arizona. The Cardinals finished that season 12th in yards and 7th in points before improving those rankings to 4th and 3rd in 2008 before the season ended with a Super Bowl loss to the Steelers.
The Cardinals had fallen behind the Steelers 20-7 before Haley opened up the Cardinals’ offense to ignite a rally that was eventually put out in the final seconds by Ben Roethlisberger’s game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. Haley was criticized for not spreading out his offense earlier in the game, but explained his approach a month later at the NFL combine.
“In the first half we played one way and obviously waited until the four quarter before we opened it up,” Haley said. “But when you play against a team like Pittsburgh, and they have those two [defensive] ends, those two rushers, when you decide to open it up and leave those tackles unprotected is a major decision. All I was trying to do was hold out as long as I could, knowing that if we opened it up early and got hit or fumbled the ball or Kurt [Warner] gets knocked out, then you’re done. So it was a matter of when you feel best about it. This time, after the fact, we tore it up. I mean, we went up and down the field and scored points. We got in the lead, we had a chance to win, and we didn’t. So I’m trying not to have too many regrets about the decisions in that game.”
Haley was named head coach of the Chiefs a week after that loss. The organization also brought in quarterback Matt Cassel as a free agent and Haley eventually made the change at running back from Larry Johnson to Jamaal Charles at midseason after Johnson became critical of Haley on the internet.
The Chiefs finished 4-12 that season and were 25th in the NFL in offense, but in 2010 the Chiefs won the AFC West title with a 10-6 record and the 12th-ranked offense. The Chiefs were eliminated by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs that season, 30-7.
The Chiefs opened the 2011 season with three losses, but rallied with four consecutive wins. At 4-5, the Chiefs lost Cassel for the season with a broken hand and Haley won only one more game before being fired at 5-8.
At the end of the season, Haley accused the Chiefs of bugging rooms at their practice facility and tampering with his cell phone. The Chiefs responded by saying the former coach was “losing it.”
Haley talked with Whisenhunt about rejoining the Cardinals, but Whisenhunt couldn’t find a place for him and Haley was out of work until joining the Steelers.
Haley has a reputation as a no-nonsense coach after well-publicized confrontations with Terrell Owens, Warner, Anquan Boldin, Johnson and the Chiefs. But he also has a history of results and a list of developing Pro Bowl wide receivers that includes Keyshawn Johnson, Marty Booker, Larry Fitzgerald and Boldin.
In Pittsburgh, Haley will work not only with Roethlisberger but with a young and talented group of receivers that impressed him during his preparation for last season’s game against the Steelers.
“They’ve done a terrific job of developing their young receivers,” Haley said before the game, a 13-9 Steelers win. “When you have Ben back there and he’s able to extend plays and keep things alive, and then you got a couple of guys that can run 100 yards in what looks like under 10 seconds, that creates big issues. I think they are dangerous and they’ll always be the Steelers. They will always be working hard, trying at the end of the game to pound it down your throat.”