It might be fair to say that the coach to watch this week — Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley — is going to end up being more important to the outcome of the Kansas City Chiefs latest foray into the national spotlight than any of the potential players.
After all, it’s Haley that is facing his former team for the first time since they fired him last season with three games still left on the schedule. And it’s that same team that has yet to pay him for those final three games or the last year left on his contract.
So while the former head coach will in all likelihood get all or most of that money in arbitration, he has a chance to collect a nice bonus of sorts on Monday Night Football. His new players have got his back and I’m sure Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will give him plenty of leeway to do as much damage as he feels necessary to get his point across.
However, for all the focus that is on Haley this week, the Chiefs will be trying to show they haven’t completely quit on their new coach (who is likely on his way out of town as well). Those that were around last season will also get to show Haley, not to mention Kansas City fans, they are able to turn things around.
So with that in mind, here are the three players to keep your eyes on as the Chiefs looks to pull off massive upset on national TV.
Offense: Dwayne Bowe
There was no Chiefs player that caught the wrath of Haley more than the enigmatic wide receiver. From Bowe showing up to camp out of shape to Bowe’s suspension for using a diuretic to Haley defending him from a ravenous fan base following a huge drop in Indianapolis, the two have seen it all.
Maybe Bowe has come to the realization that Haley was just trying to get the best out of him, the way Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald have. But more likely, Bowe will want to show his former coach that he can still break games open without him screaming in his ear on every play.
Defense: Eric Berry
The Chiefs safety has no beef — that I’m aware of — with Haley. And really I couldn’t come up with any player on defense that will need to “stick it” to their former head coach. Berry gets the call here because he has had a very up and down campaign as he recovers from a knee injury that helped to sink Kansas City and Haley last season.
He started the season turning in the worst football of his career, but has shown some flashes of the impressive rookie two years ago. If the Chiefs defense is going to try and turn back Haley, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense, Berry needs to turn in the type of effort we’ve seen from Derrick Johnson week in and week out.
Special Teams: Terrance Copper
There are still a handful of players on the Chiefs that are “Haley’s guys”. These are the players that will no doubt get a long look in Pittsburgh as soon as they are cut look from Kansas City, similar to what happened with Leonard Pope, who has now followed Haley from Phoenix to Kansas City and now to Pittsburgh.
Copper is another one of those guys. He’s known Haley for years and has stuck because of his non-stop effort on special teams. There’s no reason for him to hold a grudge against Haley, actually it’s quite the opposite. Expect to see Copper make a big play along the Steelers sideline and get up with a big — friendly — grin for his former coach.
When he and Steve Breaston are in training camp next season with the Steelers, I’m sure the three of them can reminisce about this Monday night matchup.