All last year I never questioned Haley's calling or overall decisions. The running game was anemic but that wasn't really his fault, more of a lack of O-line and running talent. His and Ben's production at the start of last year was great and prior to Ben's injury they were a dynamic duo.
Since Ben's injury they have failed to amaze. Now not all of this is on Haley obviously, a lot of the play calling would be successful if they had a working O-line (Week 1) and the receiver caught more of the passes that hit them on the hands (Weeks 1 and 2). But after that Cotchery reverse, I have to begin to question what is going on with this offense.
I think that week 1 is going to be an outlier this year. For all intents and purposes we didn't score any points. That last second touchdown was fluff against a prevent defense. Our O-line was playing without a leader and it showed.
Week 2, our O-line looked much better and gave Ben 2-5 seconds in the pocket usually, as opposed to 1-2 from last week. Our running game even looked bad at times, instead of completely awful. This was only true with Felix in the game though, Redman still looks like he can't cut to a hole worth a damn. There was one play in particular where it was primed for him to follow Foster through a hole on the right side, and he cut back inside into the arms of 3 defenders turning a possible 7+ yard gain into a 0 yard gain leaving a long third down.
My issue with the week 2 play calling stems from one main thing. Many of our completed passes were in the 8-15 yard range, and yet on several drives all we threw were long bombs. Yes we had single man coverage, but I think our WRs have shown thus far that they can't win in single coverage. Unless it's a deep ball where our guy has separation, maybe it's time to work in more curl routes or quick slants. Sanders and Brown are extremely quick, but weren't able to outrun the CBs of Cincy. Some plays that allow them to use their quickness were called, but very rarely. And there shouldn't be a single play called where Jericho is supposed to evade or outrun anyone. C'mon man.
Ben has also looked extremely rusty these first 2 games. I'm not sure if it's due to the lack of separation and he's trying to put the ball where only the WR can get it, but lots of balls are too high, or too far forwards or backwards for receivers to catch in stride. I'm hoping that the Steelers find a way to get Moye and Wheaton on the field a lot more. Moye showed better hands on his catch than any other Steelers had all night, except for maybe Sanders who had 2 nice catches right before getting crushed.
Steelers begin to turn it around in week 6 after getting back Bell and Miller. Bell isn't able to completely turn around the running game, but Miller adds a key 3rd down target that increases our First Down count and keeps drives alive.
The Steelers Def. gets tired of being called "soft" by ESPN analysts and begins to once again kick ass. They stop overrunning plays when trying to make a splash play, and begin to get solid stops that force teams into passing situations and results in more turnovers.
The Steelers end the year 10-6 shocking everyone, even themselves, and get a wildcard spot in the playoffs.
Bizarro Steelers Prediction:
Steelers go 5 - 11, Haley is let go, Father Defense retires, most of our players over 30 are let go, the Steelers begin a rebuilding cycle that lasts 4 years with the Steelers back in the Superbowl in 2018 with Ben's replacement.
If I had to bet, I'd put my money on prediction #1, because you can never count the Steelers out, especially if the world is looking down on them.