- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was asked if he was worried that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has often expressed concern in transitioning to the new offense.
"I haven't sensed any of that concern, at least me personally," Haley said Wednesday in his first interview with Pittsburgh reporters since April. "He's in here, he's working hard. He's into it -- even the days when he hasn't practiced, he's over my shoulder, talking, commenting, discussing. That's what I've seen out of all the good quarterbacks -- really good quarterbacks -- that I've been around act like."
There shouldn't be any consternation even if Roethlisberger is concerned about assimilating to a new offense. This is June, not September. If Roethlisberger still is unsettled about the offense the night before playing the Broncos, that's when SteelerNation should sound the alarm.
This really shouldn't be an issue. Don't get me wrong, the franchise quarterback should be comfortable with the offense and a two-time Super Bowl-winning one should have a say in how the offense ultimately looks.
But it's not Haley's job to coddle Roethlisberger. It's his job to improve the 21st-ranked scoring offense. It's his job to boost the 18th-ranked red zone offense. And most importantly, it's his job to protect Roethlisberger.
There's little chance of the Steelers scoring more points and scoring more in the red zone without a healthy Roethlisberger. You just have to look at the Steelers' offense after Roethlisberger sustained a high-ankle sprain. The Steelers took a step forward in this area when they drafted guard David DeCastro and offensive tackle Mike Adams with their first two picks. But Haley has to get Roethlisberger to help himself as well.
I keep going back to right after the 2011 season when Art Rooney II said Roethlisberger may need to "tweak" his game. Haley needs to convince Roethlisberger to get rid of the ball quicker, and that means changing the way Roethlisberger thinks. One of Roethlisberger's biggest strengths is extending plays, and the Steelers can't eliminate that totally. The team just has to reduce this because it increases the chances of Roethlisberger getting hurt.
In Haley's two seasons as offensive coordinator in Arizona (2007-08), the Cardinals ranked in the top 11 in fewest sacks allowed. They gave up a total of 52 sacks in those two years, which is 12 more than Roethlisberger got sacked all of last season. A big reason for the low number of sacks in Arizona was Kurt Warner's quick decision-making. More fast-hitting passes should be in Roethlisberger's future. He excelled in this game plan last season when he picked apart the Patriots.
Changing to a new offense is a challenge for Roethlisberger because he hasn't had to do it. He might feel better about it when his body feels better at the end of the season.