Bruce Arians: A Precursor of Things To Come For The Steelers
There was no retirement. And if you think otherwise, you need check your glass and stop drinkin’ the Arians kool aid. There was no ‘firing’ in the traditional sense either. But, like Dave Wannstedt and Pitt, the Steelers mysteriously ran out of pens when it came time to renew Arains contract. So how does this resonate with the rest of the team?
Arians joined the Steelers as the wide receivers back in 2004 and was promoted as the OC in 2007. I know for myself I was a little unsettled when Arians became the coordinator simply because of his back ground as a receivers coach. Within 5 short seasons, Arians successfully dismantled the blue collar hard nosed running game that defined the Pittsburgh Steelers. Some of the best full backs in the league came and went, never to be replaced. Tight ends became an extension of the offensive line in the Red Zone rather than a threat. And, the bubble screen pushed out the RB screen. We could sit here all day and have an Arians vs Steelers Nation debate – but the bottom line is Arians came ‘this close’ to completely obliterating the heart and sole of the Pittsburgh Steelers. That did not sit well with Rooney. In fact, Rooney fired off a warning shot in the form of voicing that the team needed to run the ball more this season. And like a defiant teenager, Arians just kept doing his thing.
So where did Arians really go wrong? The running game wasn’t a complete failure this season. The team did average 4.1 yards per carry. But I think if you are going to go against the team president you better get the wins to back up your defiance. The offense may have broken records this year in offensive production, but was pretty awful when it came to scoring points – 21st in the league. 12-4 isn’t too shabby, but two of your loses came to your most hated rival in your division. The team had success in moving the ball, but when it seemed to count the most – producing Red Zone TD’s or critical 3rd downs – the ‘genius’ that was Bruce Arians disappeared faster than you could say ‘yoi.’ This ‘hot then cold, cold then hot’ productivity from Arians offense is what drove Steelers fans mad and yet somehow kept Tomlin confident in his right hand man. The running back and tight end positions became more of an afterthought in Arians’ schemes, which would end up (in my opinion) being his fatal wound.
So what does this mean for the future of the Steelers? ROONEY HAS SPOKEN. That’s what it means. This is a huge power move by Rooney II (but not in that a-hole Jerry Jones kind of way). It says, ‘Hey Mike, I told you all what I wanted to see happen. You didn’t listen, so I’m making Bruce walk away. Make sure you choose your next guy wisely because now I’m looking at you.’ Ok so maybe that last part isn’t quite true…. yet. But you have to think that Tomlin is a little bit in the hot seat for being a staunch defender of Arians, allowed Bruce to change the face of the offense and then came up short two years in a row in nabbing another Lombardi trophy. I really believe that were the Steelers to win last year’s Super Bowl, we wouldn’t be having this conversation – even though Arains wouldn’t listen about the running game, at least he would have helped produce a Super Bowl win. But they didn’t. Rooney has struck the bell and is letting that sound resonate through the rest of the team that he owns that team and is currently not happy with the way things are going.
The Steelers usually hire from within for this kind of coordinator position. Kirby Wilson would have been great as the replacement, but with his health in jeopardy after that terrible fire incident, I doubt he will be ready in time for next season. That leaves this hire as an outside one. There are all sorts of candidates out there – just don’t pick Todd Healey or Jim Caldwell. The most important thing for Tomlin is to trust the wishes of his team president and find a coordinator who will bring back the importance of the running game. This probably won’t sit well with Tomlin, but if he wants to keep HIS job, then he better step up and produce that kind of coordinator. Sooner or later there will be accountability for the teams successes or misgivings. Arians became the example. The scapegoat (you didn’t really think he was the ONLY reason this team lost to Green Bay and Denver did you?). I think Rooney really likes Tomlin, but is pissed about his coaching over the last two years. I think he feels Tomlin is letting things slip away out of his grasp of control and is complacent with that. That probably isn’t sitting well with Rooney. This week will be a time for the team to turn a corner. It’s time to move on from the Arians era, and it’s time for Tomlin to step up and coach this team the way it’s supposed to.
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