- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH – Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff chances: “We’ve already worked a little magic last week and [all of the games] fell for us. I’ve seen stranger things happen.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley on if one of four things doesn’t happen Sunday and the Steelers miss the playoffs by a game: “It’s easy to look back but we can’t do that.”
The shame if the Steelers miss the playoffs is that they would probably be a tough out because of how their offense has come together since Haley went all in on the no-huddle offense.
The Steelers are averaging 29.3 points in their last eight games, and Haley can only wonder what might have been had Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey not sustained a torn ACL on Pittsburgh’s first possession of the season.
“We had big plans for the no-huddle coming into the season,” Haley said.
Fernando Velasco, by all accounts, learned the offense faster than could have expected. But it took time for him to get comfortable with everything before Haley felt confident in unleashing the no-huddle attack. And he had to pull the reins back a little bit after Velasco tore his Achilles and Cody Wallace became the third starting center of the season.
But the no-huddle, and how it has transformed the Steelers' offense, is the biggest story of the second half of the season. Ben Roethlisberger has never played better and taken less hits while running the offense in which he calls the plays.
Roethlisberger’s command of the no-huddle isn’t the only reason why the Steelers’ offense could really take off next season. Youth abounds on offense and, as Haley observed, “especially up front. A lot of guys have a lot of playing time. Not only that, they’ve shown they can play in the league. We have a lot of bodies on hand and, as everybody gets healthy [that] should bode well for what we are trying to do.”
It seems a foregone conclusion that Haley will return next season, and as much as his relationship with Roethlisberger has been scrutinized, consider what the veteran quarterback said earlier this week.
“I think all of the coordinators have been open to input, but I think this is probably the most that they've accepted [from him]. We’ve used it and tweaked it to benefit the team,” he said.
It has also benefited Roethlisberger. He has been sacked just six times in the last six games after getting dropped 35 times in the first nine games.
Roethlisberger praised his line for keeping him clean but also acknowledged that the no-huddle is conducive to keeping him upright.
“When I’m calling plays I can call it based off what the defense is giving us,” Roethlisberger said. ”The ball will come out quicker because I’ve kind of predetermined where I’m going with the ball.”
The Steelers would love nothing more than to sneak into the playoffs and see how far Roethlisberger and the offense takes them.
If they fall short, the one consolation they have is the offense could be even better next season.