PITTSBURGH — Todd Haley is over it, he swears.
The sting from getting fired as Kansas City’s head coach last December has faded, replaced by the peace he feels in Pittsburgh, where he’s quickly molded the Steelers into one of the most diverse attacks in the league as offensive coordinator.
Haley insists there will be no extra motivation Monday night when his new employer faces his old one. The coach known for his sometimes explosive temper and innovative approach maintains his reaction when the final gun sounds will be no different than any other week.
“I’m always excited if we win,” Haley said. “I’m always depressed if we lose.”
Something that happened with a little too much frequency during his two-plus-year tenure in Kansas City. Haley went 19-27 with the Chiefs, engineering a remarkable turnaround in 2010 when he turned a team that finished 4-12 the season before into AFC West champions.
The next step never happened.
Injuries to running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki sent Kansas City into an early season tailspin from which it never recovered. The team sent Haley packing after a 37-10 loss to the New York Jets on Dec. 11, a game in which Haley received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that seemed to erase what backing he may have had inside the organization.
Haley found a safe landing in Pittsburgh, where he was tasked with diversifying the offense and taking some of the pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It’s working. The Steelers (5-3) are streaking and Roethlisberger is in the midst of the finest season of his career.
“I’m really happy to be part of this great organization and really what is a tight-knit family,” Haley said. “It’s a unique environment that’s hard to find.”
One that Haley apparently never discovered in Kansas City, where his abrasiveness was at odds with one of the league’s more even-keeled organizations.
“Todd was a guy, he stayed on you,” Chiefs wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. “He had a sense of humor, but if you were doing good, he’d let you know. If you were doing bad, he’d let you know.”
A trait that made Haley’s hiring in Pittsburgh an eyebrow raiser because of the close relationship between Roethlisberger and Bruce Arians, the man Haley replaced.
There was an early feeling-out process between coach and quarterback, with Roethlisberger taking his time to fully embrace Haley’s scheme. Any concerns about their ability to get along, however, have disappeared. There are no visible signs of discord between the two and Roethlisberger understands how important Monday’s game is to the guy calling the plays.
“Without him saying it, you can always see it,” Roethlisberger said. “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.”
Haley acknowledges there may be a “minor” advantage to facing a team he helped build, even if the Chiefs (1-7) have taken on a distinctly different personality under new head coach Romeo Crennel.
The Chiefs opted to stick with Crennel after the team went 2-1 in the three games he coached following Haley’s ouster. Yet any momentum the franchise gained has evaporated this fall under an avalanche of turnovers.
Kansas City is tied for the league’s worst record with an offense so inept Crennel shed his duties as defensive coordinator to help shore things up. There are so many things the Chiefs are trying to address, sticking it to their old coach doesn’t even register.
“I’m not going to really get into that whole situation. I’m not going to touch it,” quarterback Matt Cassel said. “You know, Coach Haley has gone in there, he’s done a good job. Their offense is going well, but we have to get ready for a great defense. That’s what we have to concentrate on.”
Likewise, don’t expect Haley to make an impassioned plea in the pregame huddle.
“Todd’s not going to stand up and give any grand speeches about their personnel or things of that nature,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. “If anything, he provides a nugget or two or some clarity when we get mixed signals in terms of what we see on tape or maybe what we perceive they’re capable of.”
Haley is more concerned with the potential of his new offense. At the moment, that appears to be plenty.
Roethlisberger is on pace to set career highs in every major statistical category, including yards and touchdowns. The running game has found its legs behind backups Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, and the jumbled offensive line is keeping Roethlisberger’s jersey clean.
There’s plenty to be happy about at the moment. No need to sully it up with notions of revenge.
“I’m proud of my players from that time and have a lot of really good feelings toward all of them,” Haley said. “They’re good memories.”
NOTES — Dwyer, who sat out last week’s game against the New York Giants with a strained right quadriceps, practiced on Thursday and is expected to play against the Chiefs ... RB Chris Rainey (ribs) and K Shaun Suisham (ankle) also practiced and will play ... WR Antonio Brown (ankle), S Troy Polamalu (calf) and LB Sylvester Stevenson (hamstring) all missed practice and have been ruled out while T Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) were limited.