PITTSBURGH – You have to scroll way down the stat sheet to find Tamba Hali’s numbers last season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Oh, here they are: 1 tackle, 1 assist, 2 quarterback hits, and 1 forced fumble.
No sacks, and puny numbers, but it seems as if Hali spent the entire Sunday night in Ben Roethlisberger’s face.
“I didn’t have my best game against the Kansas City Chiefs last year,” was how Steelers left tackle Max Starks described his matchup with the 6-3, 275-pound pass-rusher out of Penn State.
Hali went on to finish the season with 12 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. This season he has 5 sacks – all in the last 5 games – and Starks’s eternal respect.
“Not only is he skilled and athletic, but he has a relentless motor,” Starks said. “I think that’s one of the things that makes him such a great pass-rusher. He’s a very tireless worker. He’s always running. When you watch the film, he’s a guy who even if he’s beat on something he’s going to chase a pass downfield, a screen downfield. If he overruns it or misses his fill lanes on a run play, he’s going to double back and chase it down. He’s just a very relentless pursuer.”
“He is a warrior in every sense of the word,” said Hali’s former coach Todd Haley. “He’s a guy that does not stop. You cannot get out-tempoed by him. He can beat you with speed, quickness and power. He’s a relentless worker in the offseason, regular season and training camp. In between every period he’s working on his craft non-stop, and it shows. He’s one of the elite outside backers in the league in my opinion and a player that you definitely have to pay attention to and handle as best you can or he can disrupt the game in a negative way, fast.”
HALEY: LESS IS MORE
Starks is something of an elder, a soothsayer for the offense, so he was asked about the secret behind the offense’s improvement this season.
“Getting it called,” Starks said with a chuckle. “That’s the biggest thing is actually having plays called, the coaches knowing what plays we’re better at, and being willing to call those plays is what I think it really comes down to.”
Is that all due to Haley, the new coordinator?
“I won’t say it’s all Todd,” Starks said. “I think it’s confidence in not only coach Haley but also coach (Mike) Tomlin that if they call this run play, these guys are going to execute. And if we keep calling it the other team’s will is eventually going to break and we’re going to break some big plays.”
“I’m a big believer in less is more and you get good at what you do,” said Haley. “I think that’s been part of the process, us figuring out our identity in both facets: run and pass. I think that as you narrow it down, you do simplify in a sense in that you’re going to see different defenses, fronts and pressures. You’ve got to practice all the different looks. We don’t waste a lot of practice time. We focus in on what we’re going to do and guys get good at doing it and you have success.”
* Last week Tomlin became fourth-fastest coach to reach 60 career wins among those who began their career after the merger in 1970. Tomlin’s tied with Chuck Knox at reaching those 60 in 88 games.
* Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel is 0-8 against the Steelers. Crennel spent four seasons as coach of the Cleveland Browns and lost every game against the Steelers.
* Haley, Crennel, assistant Chiefs head coach Maurice Carthon, and Chiefs DL coach Anthony Pleasant were all a part of Bill Parcells’ 1998 Jets staff. The Jets went 12-4 that year, the most regular-season wins in team history. Bill Belichick was that team’s defensive coordinator, Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator, and Eric Mangini was a defensive assistant. The 1998 Jets lost in the AFC Championship Game to the eventual champion Denver Broncos. Haley was the offensive quality control coach.
MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
* The Steelers have never lost a Monday night game at Heinz Field. They’re 7-0 since the stadium opened in 2001. In fact, the Steelers haven’t lost a Monday night game at home since 1991, when the New York Giants beat them, 23-20. All-time, the Steelers are 24-5 at home on Monday nights.
* Ben Roethlisberger is 4-0 at home on Monday nights and has 8 TDs, 3 interceptions and a 109.3 passer rating.
* Chiefs QB Matt Cassel is 3-0 on Monday nights with 5 TDs, 2 interceptions and a 90.4 rating.
* WR Dwayne Bowe (401) became the fourth player in Chiefs history with 400 catches when he caught 8 passes last week. Bowe leads the Chiefs this season with 45 receptions for 571 yards (12.7) and 3 TDs. Bowe was a teammate of Steelers receiver Antonio Brown’s at Norland (Miami) in 2002.
* Pitt’s Jonathan Baldwin normally starts on the other side of Bowe. The 2011 first-round draft pick has 15 catches for 213 yards (14.2) and 0 touchdowns.
* Slot receiver Steve Breaston, of Woodland Hills High, has 6 catches for 61 yards and 0 touchdowns.
* Running back Jamaal Charles is fifth in the AFC in yards from scrimmage at 99.0 per game. The leaders coming into the weekend were Ray Rice 109.1, Arian Foster 105.9, Reggie Wayne 104.4, and C.J. Spiller 99.8. The top Steeler is Mike Wallace, who averages 66.4 yards from scrimmage per game.