Chiefs’ Haley gains small bit of vindication
KANSAS CITY — Maybe the Steelers need to stop playing against coaches who used to root for them.
Kansas City rookie coach and Pittsburgh native Todd Haley earned the most rewarding victory of his young career and, for at least one week, silenced his critics with the Chiefs’ 27-24 overtime victory over the Steelers.
One week after Cincinnati Bengals’ coach and Fort Cherry native Marvin Lewis guided his team to an upset at Heinz Field, another Western Pennsylvania native stunned his hometown team.
“Not a lot of games have been won around here,” Haley said of a franchise with zero postseason wins since 1993. “It’s painful for all of us. It’s nice to get a little reward against a team like that.”
The victory at an Arrowhead Stadium with seemingly as many Steelers fans as Chiefs supporters provided some atonement for Haley, 42, a Steelers ball boy when his father, Dick, was building the Super Bowl champions of the 1970s as one of the league’s top personnel men.
“They fought like a team that’s kind of desperate,” Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. “They looked good today.”
Aside from a lousy record, Haley’s first season included a Twitter salvo from Larry Johnson, who publicly questioned his coach’s football experience. Haley played golf, not football, at Upper St. Clair High School and in college at North Florida.
Haley’s coaching decisions in a 37-7 loss Oct. 25 to the San Diego Chargers were ripped by the Kansas City media. Since then, Johnson was released and the Chiefs have won two of their past three games — or as many as last season under Herm Edwards during a 2-14 disaster.
“You obviously need some positive reinforcement for as hard as these guys work,” Haley said. “You just need some positive results or otherwise you’re just talking into air. You’re telling them and telling them, and you’re almost putting on an act. You need to see some results, and today we saw some results.”
It was a special day for Haley for many reasons. The Chiefs’ game program featured photos of himself and his father, the man who taught him the game through years of film study and minicamps. The younger Haley gained a measure of revenge — albeit tiny — for his loss to the Steelers as the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator in Super Bowl XLIII.
“Getting a win like this for Coach against the Steelers is big for him,” said Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker, who had two interceptions. “Bigger than he will probably let on.”
Added quarterback Matt Cassel, “Throughout the week, you could tell it was an important game for him.”
The win means Haley likely will be spared the hot seat entering his second season, something that looked likely during the Chiefs’ 1-6 start.
Haley said he is trying to model the Chiefs after the way the Steelers run things.
“You have to keep the message consistent,” he said. “That is the key. When times are tough and people aren’t real happy with you, you can not deviate with what you know is right.”