Sure, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense has us all excited now, but let's not forget how far it's come since Todd Haley's arrival.
Haley was hired in the winter of 2012 to replace Bruce Arians after the Steelers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Denver Broncos. Complaints about the predictability of the offense and the amount of foreseeable wide receiver screens were rampant, and the offense was given a new person to point the way for Roethlisberger and a young wide receivers' corp. That man was Todd Haley.
Haley's first season in Pittsburgh started with a lot of drama and talk about his supposed lack of a rapport with Ben Roethlisberger. Then an alleged spat with Antonio Brown on the sidelines in his second season seemed to be a very bad sign for where the offense was going and many fans longed for Arians, who had succeeded as an assistant and interim head coach for the Colts, followed by becoming a head coach for the Arizona Cardinals. After that brush up, Brown started to be a top target in the NFL.
Even going into the most recent season, talk about the competence of Todd Haley was an every week discussion; especially with Snoop Dogg telling Haley how to do his job. Since then, Haley has seen his offense flourish to become one of the best in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Maurkice Pouncey each are in the discussion for the best players at their positions in the league. Not only that, but there are still other up-and-comers on the offense like Martavis Bryant, David DeCastro and Kelvin Beachum who could also be in similar conversations very soon.
Now the offense looks to be going into 2015 with several options as playmakers for the team. Roethlisberger led the league in passing yardage in 2014 and part of that was thanks to the emergence of Wheaton and Bryant as backup options behind Brown. Now at any point, Roethlisberger can have five solid options to go to in Bell, Brown, Wheaton, Bryant and still the ever-reliable Heath Miller. All this along with Haley's two-year extension from this past offseason seems to have the offense primed for success.
Haley's focus heading into this season is on the biggest weakness for the Steelers' offense over the past several seasons, and that's efficiency in the red-zone. The Steelers struggled in this area the past few years and seem to stall when the goal line gets closer, despite their ability to gain yards at will in between the 20's. However, Haley has said that this offense is going to focus on turning their weakness into a strength going into 2015.
Ultimately, the Steelers' success will come down to how many points they put up on the board and whether or not the offense continues to struggle in the red-zone.
If there was any reason why the offense under performed in the playoffs, the first reason anyone would give would be the absence of Le'Veon Bell in the lineup. But it's not just the fact that Bell wasn't available, it was also that the Steelers had no capable immediate replacements and had to reach into free agency for Ben Tate. The team had to hope that four days was long enough for a journeyman running back to fill in and be effective; spoiler alert, it wasn't.
Now the offense has had an entire compliment of weapons and will have five preseason games as well as a full training camp to prepare for life without Le'Veon for the first three weeks of the season. Haley and Roethlisberger have to be prepared with full game plans, whether it involves throwing a lot more to the several receiving options or finding ways to give DeAngelo Williams and Dri Archer space to operate.
This is undoubtedly the best group Haley and Roethlisberger have had to since the tandem began four years ago. There is a strong possibility this offense could light it up with any NFL team in terms of offensive production. On paper, this offense looks legendary, but let's hope this offense also produces legendary results.