Criticism of Todd Haley is fair, but stay within reason

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Black and white, the Steelers offense has not performed well for some time now. Execution is one thing, autographs and allegations of homophobia are other matters. It's not as if he inherited the 1998 Vikings when he came to Pittsburgh.

Post Gazette columnist Ron Cook comes to the defense of Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley in an article in Friday's edition.

And it's pretty strongly written - as if Cook himself is the same kind of friend to Haley as he mentions the masses' issue with former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians being buddies with Ben Roethlisberger.

Much of this comes on the heels of a recent post in Deadspin regarding an allegation (if that's even the right word) that Haley was daring to be out for a drink with his wife at a hotel his family is staying at while his house is being refurbished (according to Cook).

While the poster alleged Haley asked one of the members of a group who was giving Haley a hard time why he "was being so gay?", it didn't seem like anything outside Haley living a normal life - except for a group of chumbalones who feel it's funny to harass a guy who gave them an autograph (because grown men ask for autographs).

He signed a cocktail napkin "Chiefs suck," mostly in response to a comment the poster made about his father being a big Chiefs fan.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I find that very funny, and if I had a shred of fame, I might do something along those lines.

His comment (Haley denies having any such conversation with the group) is out of line, but how much of this has anything to do with his abilities as a coach is beyond reasonable comprehension.

The level of frustration felt by fans in watching the Steelers' offense by and large in the Haley regime is understandable. It's also probably reasonable to assume the story itself was probably a bit out of line and not really all that big of a deal - let's keep in mind the comments were being made by someone who admitted to being drunk at the time.

If we're evaluating Haley as a coach, we'll invariably bring up Arians as a comparison. Pretty tough to avoid that. But if Haley is the wrong guy, how was Arians the right guy? The Steelers' offense may have been a bit better off, but if you said, as a description, an offense "doesn't run all that well, has a poor offensive line and lives and dies by the health of Roethlisberger," you couldn't definitively say which of the last three seasons was in question.

To Cook's point, this isn't all Haley. While he has a mandate to get this team placed in a position to succeed, it's difficult to say Haley himself is the anchor. He may be responsible for the teaching of the chop block technique as a part of the overall scheme, but it's unlikely he told David DeCastro to shred the right knee of his starting center Maurkice Pouncey (an injury Haley referred to as a "worst-case scenario," which is very true).

He's no saint and he's no Bill Walsh, but an offense can't perform as poorly as it did in Week 1 at the fault of just one person. And maybe it's fair to suggest part of Haley's job is to take the brunt of the public criticism. While he did not have anything to do with drafting Mike Adams - who, for the first time in his career, did not appear to be the least aware lineman on the Steelers' offense. That honor clearly went to Kelvin Beachum, who played center for the first time in his career. He didn't draft Marcus Gilbert, who has regressed considerably from a mediocre rookie season.

There are many at fault, and it's fair to criticize Haley, but let's not act as if Arians was making things work, either. Let's not try to pretend the issues this offense has had are the result of one man above all else.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but let's see what happens against Cincinnati - a team against whom Haley's offense performed wonderfully the first time he saw them as a Steeler last year.

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