Tag:Mike Tomlin
Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:38 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:06 pm
 

Steelers set to release WR Hines Ward

Hines Ward was Super Bowl XL MVP and the face of the Steelers  for more than a decade. (Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

After 14 seasons, 1,000 receptions and 85 touchdowns, Hines Ward's tenure in Pittsburgh is all but over. It was once a matter of if, now it's when, and team president Art Rooney II provided those details Wednesday.

“We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year,” Rooney told the team’s website.

“Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

Ward released a statement of his own (via NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano):

"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago," he said. "I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac tweeted Wednesday that the organization felt that Ward had nothing left.

gerrydulac
Decision to release 86 was not about money. He could've offered to play for free and wouldn't matter. Coaches feel he can't play anymore.
2/29/12 7:12 PM

gerrydulac
Ward would have been Sunday inactive if Steelers kept him. They didn't want him taking a roster spot at expense of developing young player.
2/29/12 7:14 PM

The 2011 season was Ward's worst since his rookie campaign; he lost his starting job to second-year standout Antonio Brown and managed just 46 catches for 381 yards (and a career-worst 8.3 YPC average), and two touchdowns. Part of Ward's decline can be blamed on age (he's 35), but he also suffered a severely sprained ankle in Week 4's loss to the Texans.

Whatever the explanation, the Steelers are ready to move on without him, which means that the 2012 offense will feature quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throwing to Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace -- assuming the team extends his contract (he won't be franchised, at least to hear general manager Kevin Colbert at last week's combine). The three wideouts, none older than 25, constitute one of the league's most dynamic receiver corps, which should make new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's job a lot easier.

Ward, meanwhile, thinks he has a few years left. It just won't be in Pittsburgh -- unless the team re-signs him later this the summer, perhaps an option given that there are currently three wide receivers on the roster. More likely: the Steelers make a run at Jerricho Cotchery, who they signed to a one-year deal before the 2011 season to be the No. 5 wideout. By December, he had also surpassed Ward on the depth chart and proved to be a capable underneath target and a willing blocker.

While the Steelers continue their free agency and draft preparations, and Ward contemplates his NFL future, the conversation will inevitably turn to the latter's Hall of Fame credentials. In our minds, he's a lock. Then again, we don't have a vote.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 6:58 pm
 

Report: Roethlisberger, Haley finally meet

Now that Big Ben and Haley are BFFs, the team has to decide Wallace's future in Pittsburgh. (Getty Images/US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

Some sad news for those fans and media looking for a story where there wasn't one: after a couple weeks on the job, new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally had a face-to-face with franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette tweeted the details late Tuesday afternoon:

EdBouchette
News many have waited for: Ben & Steelers new OC Todd Haley finally met, sat down and talked.
2/21/12 5:46 PM

So what does this mean? Not much, really. Haley's arrival in Pittsburgh furrowed some brows but team president Art Rooney II said last week that the hire was soley that of head coach Mike Tomlin. Put differently: Rooney hadn't suddenly morphed into a meddlesome owner, ordering Haley's hire, even if Rooney wasn't jazzed by the prospects of Bruce Arians, Haley's predecessor, keeping his job.

There's still the issue if Haley and Big Ben can co-exist. Roethlisberger has stated previously that he's not a huge fan of yelling, we still think it won't affect his on-field performance. In fact, CBSSports.com's Will Brinson thinks the Steelers' Pro Bowl quarterback could have his best season yet in 2012. (We talked about it on the most recent Pick-6 Podcast.)


So now, with that all behind us, the second-biggest offseason storyline facing the Steelers is Mike Wallace's immediate future with the team.

CBSSports.com's Pat Kirwan wrote about it over the weekend: Pittsburgh is well over the cap and even if they wanted to franchise Wallace (they don't), their precarious salary-cap situation won't allow it. Which means that Wallace, a restricted free agent and one of the league's best young wide receivers, could be had by a wideout-needy team for a first-round pick should the Steelers choose not to match any contract offer Wallace would receive.

Before last summer's new CBA, restricted free agents tendered at the highest level would bring a first- and third-rounder should they sign elsewhere. Now it's only a first-rounder, which means that the Patriots, a club desperate for a deep threat that also has two first-round picks, would be a logical landing spot.

Ideally, the Steelers would find a way to keep Wallace, but that will require some nifty salary-cap maneuvering in the coming weeks; free agency starts March 5. But here's the other side of that argument should they lose him:

Wallace has put up some mind-blowing numbers during his three-year career, and you can even blame his second-half-of-2011 slump on Roethlisberger's health and defenses double- and triple-teaming him. But Pittsburgh also has Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. In our opinion, Brown will be better than Wallace, if he's not already. And Sanders has the ability to become a solid No. 2 option.

The Steelers would also have an additional first-rounder, most likely near the bottom of the round. If, in their draft evaluations, they find a handful of players that they think would help them immediately (and when we say "players," we really mean "offensive linemen"), perhaps it's a tradeoff worth considering. Wallace is worth more than a late first-round selection but there are extenuating circumstances, chiefly the salary-cap purgatory the organization currently finds itself.

In addition to Brown and Sanders, Pittsburgh would need to re-sign someone like Jerricho Cotchery, or hope that Hines Ward has anything left for another season. (Worth mentioning: Ward had a severely sprained ankle early in the season and that may have hampered his production down the stretch.)

Then there is tight end Heath Miller, recently underutilized because of Pittsburgh's suspect pass-blocking. Haley announced at his introductory press conference that he was a huge Miller fan, and Miller could become another downfield option in the Steelers' passing game should they lose Wallace.

The organization has nearly two weeks to sort this out. Whether that's enough time to get under the salary cap (they're currently about $7-$8 million over) and extend Wallace is an entirely different issue. But Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has an impressive track record not only when it comes to identifying talent but knowing when to let them walk. We'll know shortly where Colbert stands on Wallace.

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Posted on: February 20, 2012 7:36 pm
 

Roethlisberger, Haley still haven't talked

Haley, left, still hasn't called Roethlisberger, center, despite being hired by Tomlin two weeks ago. (US PRESSWIRE)
By Josh Katzowitz

Todd Haley wasn’t exactly known as a player-friendly coach when he was at the helm of the Chiefs, and in his new job as the Steelers offensive coordinator, it appears he isn’t trying very hard to be Ben Roethlisberger’s best friend.

Or, you know, trying to talk to him at all.

That’s what Roethlisberger revealed to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, saying, “He still hasn’t called yet.”

The admission continues what has become a strange offseason for the Steelers, with team president Art Rooney II seemingly overruling coach Mike Tomlin and letting offensive coordinator Bruce Arians “retire.” Then, with the hiring of Haley, it’s been unclear who actually wanted him (there was speculation that Tomlin didn’t want Haley as much as Rooney did, though Rooney later came out and said Tomlin was the one who makes the assistant coaches decisions).

Pittsburgh's offensive upheaval
With the loss of Arians, Roethlisberger made it clear he wasn’t happy with that decision, and when Haley was announced as the new hire, he said, “I've gotten a lot of calls and texts and emails from people around the league, both good and bad about him. Everybody has an opinion, as we all know, and they're letting me know what their interaction with him was -- good, bad and indifferent. I've heard a lot of things and I'm looking forward to meeting him and forming my own opinion."

Roethlisberger probably wouldn’t have guessed that two weeks later, he still would be looking forward to meeting him (there’s a pretty good chance by this point, though, that Roethlisberger already has formed an opinion).

The Trib Review went on to write that Roethlisberger “definitely came across and had the tone that he has no intention of making the first move.” And really, why should he? Haley is the new guy, and Roethlisberger is the quarterback who’s won two Super Bowls. Roethlisberger is a top-10 quarterback, and Haley just got fired from Kansas City.

Seems like Haley would want to meet the guy who is responsible for leading the offense. Of course, we probably should have expected his from Haley.

"It doesn't matter where you stand on the totem pole," Kurt Warner, who played for Haley with the Cardinals, said earlier this month. "If he sees something you can do better, he lets you know about it. That was a reason for our success."

"He just wants you to do the right thing. Instead of getting offended, maybe you have to look at yourself and say, 'OK, that's a legitimate concern.' That's the way you get good. That's how you stay great. He will be good for Ben, not that Ben needs a lot of help.”

Of course, the only way for Haley to possibly help Roethlisberger would be to meet him. We’ll have to wait and see how long it takes for that to happen.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 9:15 am
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:16 am
 

Rooney makes clear Tomlin wanted Haley

Art Rooney II tried to make it clear that Mike Tomlin was the one who wanted to hire Todd Haley. (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

Since former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' contract wasn’t renewed (and basically, was fired) and Todd Haley was installed as the new coordinator, there’s been much speculation that some of coach Mike Tomlin’s power has been cut within the organization.

Apparently, Tomlin didn’t want to part ways with Arians, and apparently, he didn’t want to hire Haley. Supposedly, team president Art Rooney II was the man to make those deals over the protests of his successful head coach.

Now, though, Rooney is denying he had much of a role in the Pittsburgh offensive upheaval.

"I think the bottom line is, Mike was comfortable that's who he wanted to come in," Rooney said Thursday afternoon in an exclusive interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "It may be fair to say that when he started the discussions and Todd's name was on his original list, I don't think he expected that Todd was the guy he was going to wind up hiring. But as he had more conversations with him, he became more comfortable that he was the right guy for the job."

The paper writes that the reason Rooney talked to reporter Ed Bouchette was because he wanted “to counter rampant speculation that he, not Tomlin, hired Haley to replace Bruce Arians ….”

So, yes, there is spin involved in this story, and Rooney apparently didn’t dispel the notion that he, not Tomlin, was the one who didn’t want Arians around.

Pittsburgh's offensive upheaval
Aside from Haley, Rooney said Jim Caldwell was the only other candidate that Tomlin brought to Pittsburgh to interview for the job. Rooney said he had conversations with Caldwell and Haley when they were in Pittsburgh, but he said it was more informal than a regular interview.

"I wouldn't want my role in it to be overestimated because Mike has to decide who he wants on the staff,” Rooney said. “Even though there's always a discussion between me and Mike about who he's hiring and how much we're paying him and those kinds of things, it's normally a discussion of the business side of the arrangement than, 'Are we going to hire a guy who's going to run the ball so many times a game.' It was a fairly normal process as far as I'm concerned in terms of how we've done those kinds of hirings in the past."

It’s good that Rooney recognizes the need to let the public believe that Tomlin is the one calling the shots on his coaching staff. Because, for the most part, Tomlin should be the one to make those decisions.

But if Rooney was the one who wanted to let Arians walk -- and that seems fairly clear at this point -- he needed to let Tomlin save face with the Haley hire. No matter who actually wanted Haley, Rooney has accomplished that now with this interview.

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Posted on: February 12, 2012 12:29 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2012 12:53 pm
 

Can Big Ben and Haley co-exist in Pittsburgh?

Haley may not have been Roethlisberger's (or Tomlin's) first choice, but none of that matters now. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Ryan Wilson

The Steelers have had a run on un-Steelers-like offseasons recently. From Ben Roethlisberger's legal entanglements to Hines Ward's DUI to to Rashard Mendenhall's tweets on foreign policy to James Harrison's guns-ablazin' interview in Mens Journal, it's always something.


Even though this offseason isn't yet a week old, the Steelers are in the news again, this time for forcing offensive coordinator into "retirement" (eight days later, Arians joined the Colts in the same capacity) and hiring Todd Haley as his replacement.

We spoke to Lance Zierlein of TheSidelineView.com about this new dynamic (Lance has special insights into the Steelers -- his dad was Mike Tomlin's offensive line coach in Pittsburgh from 2007-2009) and it basically came down to this: Roethlisberger's been given too much leeway by the organization, there are some things he needs to do to improve, and Haley could be the guy to do it.

Zierlein admitted that Haley's abrasive style will take some getting used to, and the hire is weird in the sense that Haley's only link to Pittsburgh is through his father, Dick, a longtime personnel guy with the Steelers. He has no connection to Tomlin or his coaching tree, and based on Tomlin's comments shortly after the season (he said he expected all his assistants back in 2012), Haley wasn't even on his radar until Arians was pushed out.

In Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Joe Starkey writes that Haley's addition is aimed at one thing: corralling Roethlisberger, who pretty much has had the run of the place since he arrived in 2004.

"How does Roethlisberger respond to getting slapped around a little?" Starkey asks. "The organization that granted him nearly unlimited power to play as he saw fit -- heck, to play when he saw fit after his ankle injury -- is trying to reclaim a portion of said power. And there is no delicate way to do that.

"So get your popcorn ready. It's either going to work to spectacular results or blow up in their faces. Applaud the high-risk, high-reward philosophy that has often served the Steelers well. Question their methods. Enjoy the cabaret."

This seems to be the widespread perception -- that Roethlisberger won't handle tough coaching well. But as Zierlein pointed out Friday, While Haley's style isn't buddy-buddy (he's had run-ins with players everywhere he's coached, from divas like Terrell Owens in Dallas to team leaders like Kurt Warner and Matt Cassel in Arizona and Kansas City), he's had a lot of success as completely different kinds of offenses, from the Cards' aerial assault to the Chiefs' run-heavy game plans.

And Haley's in-your-face style isn't all bad. In fact, Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a huge Haley fan.

"I think Todd is a great coach," Fitzgerald said late in 2010 when Haley was leading the Chiefs to the AFC West title. He's fun to play for. "Everybody says he's a hard ass and this … but at the end of the day when Todd came in the locker room he'd give you the biggest hug. He wanted it so bad for us. He prepared so much and he pushed us. I remember after the NFC championship (victory over the Eagles in January 2009) he was in tears. Those moments are what I'll remember."

So maybe Haley isn't Roethlisberger's first choice or Tomlin's "guy," but he'll have plenty of weapons to work with. The Steelers' wide receivers are some of the best in the league, tight end Heath Miller is as good a blocker as a pass catcher, and Big Ben is a top-5 talent. There are worse situations to step into and be expected to succeed.

Ultimately, none of this matters. It'll come down to whether the Steelers' offense in 2012 is better than it was under Arians. That means scoring more points, being more proficient in the red zone, and having a more consistent running game. Do that, and people will gladly overlook how Haley comports himself on the sidelines. Fail and will be looking for work.

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Posted on: February 11, 2012 10:33 am
Edited on: February 11, 2012 8:22 pm
 

Report: Ward won't return to Steelers in 2012

Ward

By Josh Katzowitz

UPDATED 8:21 p.m. ET: According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Steelers sources are saying that no decision has been made regarding Hines Ward and his future.

----------

We already knew big changes were coming to the Steelers, whether Ben Roethlisberger wants it or not. Former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is out; former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley is in as the man who will run Pittsburgh’s offense. And we wonder how much power Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin really has.

Now, it seems like a distinct possibility that one of the organization’s all-time great receivers won’t return for 2012.

That’s according to NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora, who said Friday that with all the contract and salary cap maneuvering the front office is doing, Ward’s $4 million salary and declining productivity might be too much bear and that he won't be back in Pittsburgh next season.

Already, Ward has said he will not retire and that he’d be willing to take a paycut with the Steelers because he wants to stay in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh's offensive upheaval
"I'd probably have to restructure my contract," Ward said last month. "That's fine with me. I recognize that. I'm telling you I want to be here, I'm telling you I'm willing to do that. And I understand the ramifications -- we have the cap number and stuff, but I want to be here."

Even with his reduced role in the Steelers offense -- Ward lost his starting position to Antonio Brown -- the team means so much to him that he’s willing to return for less money and less playing time.

"I'm just looking year to year, but I do want to play next year,” Ward said. “If they decide to part ways, I'll be devastated, but life's not over. I'm still young.

"My thing is, I want to be a Steeler, I'm here, I'm willing to restructure, do whatever. I don't want to be seen in another uniform but, if they decide to part ways, or whatever, I don't know, I'm not even thinking like that. I couldn't even fathom myself [in another uniform], but I still want to play football.”

Look for something to happen with Ward soon. If he’s still on the Steelers roster on March 1, he’s guaranteed to earn his 2012 salary. It’s seeming more likely, though, that if Ward wants to continue his illustrious career, he’ll have to do so somewhere other than Pittsburgh.

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Posted on: February 9, 2012 10:04 pm
 

Did PIT ownership take power away from Tomlin?

Who hired Todd Haley as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator? (US Presswire)
By Josh Katzowitz

How much power does Steelers coach Mike Tomlin really have within the organization? That’s the question the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Ron Cook asks in a column written after Pittsburgh hired Todd Haley as the new offensive coordinator.

It seems that Tomlin wanted to keep former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians but was told by owner Art Rooney II that Arians would not be brought back for 2012 (Arians subsequently retired and then took a job as the Indianapolis offensive coordinator).

As we wrote last month, “The organization was not going to renew Arians’ contract, and in essence, was going to fire him without officially having to fire him. ‘That decision,’ writes reporter Gerry Dulac, ‘appears to have come from team president Art Rooney II, even though coach Mike Tomlin told Arians several times since the playoff loss in Denver that he wanted him to return next season.’ Now, it appears Tomlin was overruled by his boss.”

Was Tomlin overruled again by having to hire the former Chiefs coach to replace Arians?

As Cook writes:
Hey, all speculation is fair until we hear from Tomlin or more from Rooney. I can't say for sure one way or the other who hired Haley. We might never know. But I do know this: If Rooney forced Haley on Tomlin after forcing out Arians after a 12-4 season, Tomlin can't possibly like it.

Nor should he.

It would be enough to make Tomlin at least consider his long-term future with the Steelers, especially now that Rooney II appears to have taken nearly complete control of the franchise from his father, Dan.

Tomlin has done a wonderful job here. He is as successful as just about any coach in the NFL. In five years, he has convinced me he's a better coach than Bill Cowher before him. And Cowher was terrific.
That said, the Steelers have done well by Tomlin as well, so in reality, he can’t complain that much. And besides, the Rooneys are some of the most respected owners in all of sports.

But they haven’t just risked alienating Tomlin. They’ve also risked upsetting their franchise quarterback.

Pittsburgh's offensive upheaval
"I've gotten a lot of calls and texts and emails from people around the league, both good and bad about (Haley),'' Roethlisberger told the Post Gazette. "Everybody has an opinion, as we all know, and they're letting me know what their interaction with him was -- good, bad and indifferent. I've heard a lot of things and I'm looking forward to meeting him and forming my own opinion."

But Roethlisberger also made sure the owners heard his voice after Arians’ contract wasn’t renewed. And he gave a hint of future frustrations.

"That was my biggest talking point to Mike and those guys -- I would hate to just throw everything out and start over because I feel it would set us back two or three years because these guys are just starting to get it,” Roethlisberger said.

"I hope we don't have to start over and if we do, you know what, here we go. Let's do it. We'll do it. We're not going to complain about it. But I would hate to have to set certain guys back who are doing so well right now."

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Posted on: January 29, 2012 2:56 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 3:16 pm
 

Report: Pagano looks at Butler, Caldwell at PIT

Chuck Pagano reportedly is looking at Keith Butler to be his defensive coordinator (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

Man, new Colts coach Chuck Pagano must have some serious respect for one of the teams his old ballclub hates the most. That would be the Steelers, and Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, reportedly will pluck another Pittsburgh assistant to be a coordinator for the Colts.

On Saturday, it was Pagano surprisingly yanking Bruce Arians out of his so-called retirement in order to make him the offensive coordinator, and a day later, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Pagano will hire Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler as defensive coordinator.

A word of caution, though: according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Butler will interview the job Tuesday and said it’s “not a done deal.”

And in a switcheroo that only a Kirk Cameron fan could love, NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reports that Caldwell will interview for the open Steelers offensive coordinator spot vacated by Arians.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Caldwell spent one season together in 2001 with the Buccaneers when Tomlin was the defensive backs coach and Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach.

In Pagano’s case, the possible decision to hire anybody from the Steelers defensive coaching staff is probably a smart move -- especially considering Pittsburgh has been a top-ten defensive team in yards allowed every year since 2000.

Indy's offseason
Butler has been in Pittsburgh the past nine years, and he’s credited with helping mold James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley. Like Arians and Pagano, Butler worked in Cleveland in 2001, so Pagano knows what kind of coach he’s getting.

As PFT reminds us, Butler wanted to interview for the Cardinals defensive coordinator job last year but the Steelers denied him the chance. Now that Butler’s contract is up, though, it sounds like Butler -- who is largely considered the heir to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- is ready for a promotion.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com