PITTSBURGH – Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said all the right things this week.
He has gotten over being fired last season as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, having moved on with the Steelers.
But the players know differently.
“Without him saying it, you can always see it,” said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “Any time you have a guy on your team that used to play for another team, there’s always a little extra incentive to try to win for that guy. As offensive guys, yeah, you want to pull for your guy, get it for him.”
The Steelers (5-3) will get that opportunity tonight when they host the struggling Chiefs (1-7) in a game they must win to keep pace with Baltimore, which improved to 7-2 with a 55-20 victory over Oakland Sunday, in the AFC North standings.
Haley, who was fired midway through last season despite leading the Chiefs to a 10-6 record in 2010, says he is more concerned about the Steelers these days than what’s happening in Kansas City.
“Every game of the week is the biggest game of the year,” said Haley, the son of former Steelers director of football operations Dick Haley, a Midway native. “This is the biggest game of the year as far as I am concerned, because it’s this week. This team needs to continue doing the things on offense and continue to get better.”
The Steelers have certainly done that. After a 1-2 start, Pittsburgh has rebounded to win four of its past five games, including three in a row.
And with the first of two meetings with the Ravens coming next weekend at Heinz Field, the Steelers know they can’t afford a stumble against the Chiefs.
“We’ve got to get past Kansas City first,” said Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis. “We can’t worry about (the Ravens). There’s always the team that you’re playing first, so that week, we’ll worry about (the Chiefs).”
This season, the Chiefs haven’t given many teams much to worry about.
With 29 turnovers in their first eight games, the Chiefs have become the first team since the 1929 Buffalo Bisons not to hold a lead in regulation in their first eight games.
Yeah, they have been that bad.
“We don’t like where we are but we are the ones who put ourselves in this position,” said Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel, who is 0-8 against the Steelers, all with Cleveland. “What we are going to have to do is work our way out of it. That’s what I’ve been telling the team and what we’ve been trying to focus on. We’re trying to eliminate mistakes and trying to play better.”
The mistake-prone Chiefs will face a Steelers team that has done an excellent job of taking care of the football under Haley.
Though they have forced just eight turnovers – the same number as Kansas City – the Steelers have turned it over just eight times.
And the Steelers have the added advantage of having a coach who spent three seasons working with Kansas City’s personnel.
“From our perspective I think it’s a minor advantage,” Haley admitted. “It’s more than anything just understanding the guys on the other side of the ball and their strengths and weaknesses. As an offensive staff, that’s what we try to do every week. We try to figure out where our best matchups are, run and pass. Having some real insight to a lot of the players on the defensive side of the ball, there is a slight advantage for me personally.”
That’s about all Haley would admit to.
“I’m always excited if we win,” Haley said. “I’m always depressed if we lose. I leave that to my wife to handle both of those emotions.”
Odds and end zones
The Steelers have won their past 13 Monday night games at home. … In four career Monday night games at Heinz Field, Roethlisberger has eight touchdown passes and three interceptions with a passer rating of 109.3. … Emmanuel Sanders is expected to start at wide receiver in place of injured Antonio Brown (ankle).