Is there trouble in paradise between Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley?
It appears so following the Pittsburgh Steelers overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and it could not have come at a worse time.
After losing four of their past five games, the Steelers find themselves out of the AFC playoff picture. Despite this, they still control their own destiny and will be in the playoffs if they win their final two home games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
But the Steelers have given no indication recently that they can win one game, let alone two. And if you consider the apparent rift between Roethlisberger and Haley, things are not looking up for the Steelers.
Following the loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Roethlisberger questioned why the team did not use Heath Miller or run more of the no-huddle offense in the second half (via Pro Football Talk).
“That’s tough for me to answer right now,” Roethlisberger said. “The second half we didn’t do much of it, and that’s disappointing.”
Haley may not have called all of the plays that Roethlisberger would have liked in the second half. But Haley did not make a poor throw resulting in the game-deciding interception by Brandon Carr, either.
It was Roethlisberger's failure to execute that ultimately cost the Steelers the game.
Poor preparation and a lack of execution during games have plagued the Steelers for over a month now, and it is about to go beyond costing them games—it’s likely to cost them a playoff spot.
The team is in disarray. Injuries continue to add up. The Steelers still turns the ball over at crucial times. And now, the starting quarterback is commenting about the play-calling after the game.
Whether or not there is actually a rift between Roethlisberger and Haley is irrelevant. The comments have already caused a distraction that head coach Mike Tomlin tried to dismiss on Tuesday.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Alan Robinson reported that Tomlin said that Roethlisberger needs “to move forward.”
“That was a tough, hard-fought game, an emotional one, and when you come up short, there‘s frustrations associated with that, natural frustrations associated with that,” Tomlin said. “I‘m sure if anything was read into his comments, it was just that. I met with Ben (Monday), and he‘s ready to move forward with this week, and he‘s on board with what we‘re doing.”
Roethlisberger doesn’t have a choice but to be on board. But does Haley need to get on board with his quarterback?
It is not as though Roethlisberger’s thoughts about the offense are completely out of line.
Roethlisberger wants to target Miller more often, which is not a bad idea considering that Miller is the most consistent receiver on the team.
More no-huddle offense? Absolutely. It's one of Roethlisberger’s strengths and it can really make a defense back off, especially when the Steelers are playing at home.
Even though he didn’t comment on it after the game, Roethlisberger would probably also like to air the ball out to Mike Wallace a few more times a game. Wallace is at his best when running past defenders and Roethlisberger loves to throw deep. Is it time to bring back some of Roethlisberger’s old ways as the Steelers go into must-win mode?
There is no sense in playing safe at this time of the year.
Roethlisberger and Haley need to combine their ideas to put this team in the best position to succeed. With just two more wins, they are in the playoffs. At that point anything can happen.
But if they lose just once, the season is over.
Now is not the time for Roethlisberger to question the play-calling or for Haley to be stubborn regarding his offensive philosophy. It is imperative that Haley provide the players with the best game plan in order to succeed while the players must go out and execute the offense to the best of their ability.
The Steelers will have the entire offseason to work out the kinks in the offense. They just don’t want that offseason to start three weeks from now.
Roethlisberger and Haley need to put any differences aside and focus on the Bengals. The playoffs start now and unless the quarterback and offensive coordinator are on the same page, the Steelers will be sitting at home in January.