Redskins

Steelers' Haley worried about Chiefs, not revenge

201211081444530648837-p2.jpeg

Steelers' Haley worried about Chiefs, not revenge

PITTSBURGH (AP) 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.

---

AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this report.

---

Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, June 19, 37 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on defense; the offense was posted yesterday.

Defensive line (7)
Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier, Stacy McGee, Tim Settle, Ziggy Hood

I don’t think that McGee’s groin injury will be an issue, but it seemed that Jay Gruden was very tight-lipped about the whole thing, so we will have to wait until training camp starts. This is one more than they normally carry here and Hood’s presence on the roster could be in danger if injuries force the team to carry more players at another position. 

Outside linebacker (4)
Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Ryan Anderson, Pernell McPhee

Anderson is certain to make the roster, but he was mostly invisible during the offseason practices that were open to the media. The spotlight will be on last year’s second-round pick in training camp. After a zero-sack rookie season, Anderson will be under pressure to produce this season. 

Inside linebacker (5)
Zach Brown, Mason Foster, Zach Vigil, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaun Dion Hamilton

The player I have on the wrong side of the bubble here is Martrell Spaight. If he does work his way on, the spot most in jeopardy is Vigil’s. Harvey-Clemons got a lot of reps with the first team in OTAs and the team thinks he can help in nickel situations and perhaps more. And Gruden called Hamilton a potential future starter. So the two younger players seem safe, leaving Vigil vulnerable.

Cornerback (6)
Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, Orlando Scandrick, Josh Holsey, Greg Stroman

As is the case with the running backs that I looked at yesterday, this group seems to be pretty well set. It’s not that it’s an exceptionally strong group, but there isn’t a lot of real competition. Behind these six are three undrafted free agents and while Danny Johnson, Kenny Ladler, and Ranthony Texada all have had flashes in the offseason practices they are extreme long shots to make the roster at this point. 

Safety (4)
D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson, Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke

If there are concerns about Nicholson’s health—to be clear, as of now there are none—Fish Smithson could make it as a fifth safety. 

Specialists (3)
K Dustin Hopkins, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg

It looks like the Redskins will have the same trio of specialists for the fourth straight year. I will look it up at some point but for now, I’ll say that it’s been a while since they had such stability here. 


Defensive players: 26
Rookies (5): 
Payne, Settle, Hamilton, Stroman, Apke
New to the Redskins in 2018 (7): Rookies plus McPhee, Scandrick
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (13): Rookies plus new players plus Vigil (released in the final cut, re-signed later in the season). 

On the 53-man roster:

24 offense, 26 defense, 3 specialists
Rookies: 8
New to the Redskins in 2017: 12
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster: 16

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

Tandler on Twitter

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 37
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 51
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 74

The Redskins last played a game 170 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 82 days. 

In case you missed it

  

Quick Links

5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

usatsi_10801156.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: