LATROBE - Time will tell how the relationship between Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will evolve. But for now, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator is making his quarterback's eyes light up.
Entering his ninth season, Roethlisberger has long publicly campaigned to run more no-huddle offense in which he carries more play-calling responsibilities. Haley, in his first season with the team, said on Tuesday the no-huddle "will be... a big part of our offense."
"(Roethlisberger) has shown a propensity to do that at a high level," Haley said. "Ideally, if you have a quarterback like Ben and what he's done, when he's in full control, that's a good situation to be in because he's right in the middle of it and seeing what's going on."
The Steelers (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) spent a significant portion of their afternoon practice on Tuesday placing special emphasis on running the no-huddle.
As the players continue to assimilate themselves into Haley's system, Roethlisberger would seem to need to master an advanced understanding of the offense before he could be entrusted to run the no-huddle.
"It requires some attention, of course - it's new," coach Mike Tomlin said. "But I like where the group is. It's obvious that we made good use of our offseason time. When I talk about that, I'm talking about (Organized Team Activities) and minicamp, but it's a process."
Roethlisberger was particularly close with former coordinator Bruce Arians, but Arians was forced out at the end of last season and now holds the coordinator's job with the Colts.
But even Arians - despite repeated teases - resisted handing over the play-calling reins to Roethlisberger on a regular basis. Other than the obvious late-in-a-half situations, the Steelers rarely ran a random series in the no-huddle over the past few seasons even though it was practiced often.
"Ben, I can tell through the spring, he's got his arms around it, he likes it," Haley said. "You can see his eyes light up a little bit when we get into that mode, and I think that's the sign of a great quarterback. The ones I've been around, they want it. 'Give me control, let me run this thing.' And he has the ability to do it, as he's shown in the past and through the spring."
Initially, the relationship between Haley and Roethlisberger, at least publicly, was viewed frosty. Each said he hadn't spoken with the other for days after Haley was hired - even when both were in the same building at the Steelers practice facility. But as Haley and the Pittsburgh offense assimilate to one another, more of a mutual appreciation is apparent.
"I've heard people say that it's a quarterback's league, and having now spent 16, 17 years coaching, I believe that," Haley said. "You need a guy that can be the field general and move your football team up and down the field, control the battle with the defense. "
And Ben is in that group of top guys.
"He's proven it from day one in the NFL, so I'm having a lot of fun across the board with all the position groups and the guys up front. But Ben taking that football every snap, it makes it fun for us offensive coaches."
Arians was a mainstay with the Steelers staff. So, in effect, this is the first time in Roethlisberger's career he's had to learn a new offense.
"We're getting there. We're trying to get there," Roethlisberger said Tuesday. "I know we had just in the walkthrough today something where (tight end Heath Miller) and I were on the same page, which is always a good thing. But we were on the wrong page in the coach's book. So we're still getting there."
With Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Wallace holding out, starting running back Rashard Mendenhall recovering from a torn ACL and three of the offensive line's five positions potentially manned by new starters, a comprehensive understanding of the offense by the players before the season opener would serve the Steelers well.
"We feel like there's been enough to feel good about the direction we're going," Haley said. "There's a lot of work to do, and we're still reinstalling a bunch of the things from the spring so they all hear it for a third time.
"But we feel good about where we are."
NOTES: The Steelers signed WR Paul Cox and waived OT Bridger Buche. Cox, a 6-4, 203-pound rookie free agent from Mississippi Valley State, was cut by San Diego last week. Pittsburgh just signed Buche last week. ... For the third time in five afternoon practices, a thunderstorm moved in almost exactly as the workout was ending. ... CB Keenan Lewis (shoulder) practiced fully after he had left practice Sunday. WR Emmanuel Sanders and rookie offensive linemen David DeCastro and Mike Adams likewise returned to practice after missing all or part of Sunday's workout. ... Miller (ankle) is getting closer to returning to full practice participation, Tomlin said. ... Rookie CB Terry Carter has a hamstring injury. ... Tomlin anticipates S Damon Cromartie-Smith (shoulder) to be activated from the physically unable to perform list Wednesday.