Despite some insistence from others that his firing after a 5-8 start in 2011 sparks some desire for revenge, Steelers offensive coordinator and former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley sticks to mantra of "every game is the biggest game of the year."
It wouldn't seem befitting the dignity of a coach - particularly not a Pittsburgh Steelers coach - to come out to the media making statements of residing animosity toward a former employer.
It would seem in line with human nature, though, for Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley to want to stick it to his former bosses, though.
The Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh's Week 10 opponent, fired Haley after posting a 5-8 record in 2011, just 14 games after going 10-6 and winning the AFC West. Haley received a Coach of the Year award from NFL's 101 organization.
A rocky 2011 season that saw the Chiefs go on a four-game winning streak, but also lose three in a row and four in a row at different points, doomed Haley, in the eyes of general manager Scott Pioli - a man on the verge of termination himself.
Clearly, Haley's relationship with Pioli had its complications. After his departure, a report in the Kansas City Star suggested Haley had stopped using his personal cell phone and repeatedly checked his office for listening devices. The Star had a story on Jan. 12 about the entire affair, quoting one source attributed as a former longtime Chiefs executive as saying, "When you're mentally abused, you eventually lose it, too."
Some of Pioli's first moves were made in regards to protecting information. According to the Star, a rule instituted by Pioli regards the shades be drawn during practices in all offices facing the Chiefs practice fields, including then Chiefs president Mark Donovan.
From a cultural perspective, weight can be put in the theory of changes being made out of fear of what a new manager knows can happen, disregarding what may happen. Pioli's New England Patriots weren't without invasions of allegedly secure information.
Allegations and smoking sightings without confirmation of fire aside, Haley was out, as was Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, whom the Steelers elected not to bring back after the 2011 season. After working in that kind of alleged environment (Pioli allegedly chastised department heads after a candy wrapped sat in a stairwell for a week in an effort to show how detail-oriented championship teams may be), pretty much anywhere else sounds like a good change of pace.
Haley's comments leading into the Steelers job paint a night-and-day difference between the two organizations - one with a Super Bowl appearance and two double-digit winning seasons, and one with just that 10-win season under Haley since 2009.
Putting all that together, a reasonably-minded person could understand if Haley has extra motivation (if such a concept is possible in an extremely competitive league) against the Chiefs. At the same time, he may no longer be a head coach, but according to the Tribune-Review, "Haley loves his new job in his hometown Pittsburgh and loves going to work every day because of the drama-free environment and his personnel, including the best quarterback he's ever coached. He also sneaks in a few more family hours each week."
It's largely implied no one is bugging his phone or screaming about candy wrappers, either. Maybe Haley will think about that wrapper while holding a three-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter Monday, and decide to give that best quarterback he's ever coached, Ben Roethlisberger, a pass check at the line of scrimmage. Maybe his past experiences will make him stare into the suite where Pioli likely would be sitting for a brief second after a touchdown.
He says he's moved on, but less than a year after leading a reporter inside Chiefs headquarters, eyes scanning over the room for listening devices, it's really hard to believe he's forgotten about it. Maybe in the heat of battle those thoughts come back to him, leading to a deep pass when holding a lead.
It seems, though, Haley is more content with leading the offense to score enough to give the Steelers their fourth straight win. Not all revenge scenarios play out with fire and brimstone.