Crafted out of the same vein as "Haley vs. Ben I" comes "Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley to Arizona," a scintillating tale of replacement and new opportunity in the NFL.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora does a masterful job guiding his readers to a conclusion that not only suggests Haley is at the top of a short list to replace Cardinals embattled head coach Ken Whisenhunt, but even goes as far as to suggest "At this point, it would be surprising to many if someone other than Haley ended up coaching the Cardinals should Whisenhunt's tenure there end."
The report is so well-written, it's really hard to tell whether it's based on fact or speculation.
It's certainly rife for speculation.
Using deductive reasoning, Whisenhunt's Cardinals won their first game in their last 10 opportunities in Week 15, ending a nine-game losing streak after a 4-0 start. Their offense has been completely destroyed due to poor quarterback play and multiple injuries. The Cardinals are among the league's worst offensive teams since the Cardinals lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, and a overhaul of their leadership would fit right in with a reasonable observation based on how other teams in the NFL handle such situations.
None of that means Whisenhunt will be fired after this season, something La Canfora points out. He's not saying it will happen, but he is quoting sources who say Haley's name continues to come up in internal conversations.
And why not? When Haley had a full compliment of his starters, he led Roethlisberger's transition from a unrestrained gunslinging passer to one under control and poised. His numbers were among the best in the NFL before suffering an injury in Week 10. While the statistical improvement of the Steelers this season compared to last year may not be as noticeable over the last few games, when the Steelers were at their best offensively (Weeks 7-9) they were extremely difficult to stop.
None of that has anything to do with Whisenhunt's job security in Arizona, but it's only fair to wonder whether it's time for Arizona to make a change. Outside of the outstanding contributions of defensive coordinator (and former Steelers secondary coach) Ray Horton, the team has very little optimism for 2013 as they limp to a finish in 2012.
It's curious why the Cardinals wouldn't also have Horton on that list, but that's a separate issue.
If Haley was to leave after this season, he'd be the second Steelers coach to vacate - following offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who accepted the head coaching position at UTEP earlier in December.
The Steelers host Cincinnati in a Week 16 playoff game Sunday. While a loss won't mathematically eliminate them from the postseason, it's a near certainty that they need to put up a much stronger showing than they have in previous weeks if they wish to extend this season in any sort of meaningful way.
But it becomes something of a Catch-22. If Haley is able to guide this team out of the offensive doldrums its currently in, he'd become an even more attractive option for the Cardinals.