Flying Circus Archives - Total Steelers » Total Steelers

Why don’t the Arizona Cardinals just change their colors to Gold and Black and be done with it?

Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator and Indianapolis Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians has been named the new head coach of the Cardinals. He replaces another ex-Steelers OC, Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired despite being the most successful coach in Arizona history. Arians beat out several other candidates for the job including current Steelers OC Todd Haley and former Steelers secondary coach/current Arizona DC Ray Horton.

At least we think he beat out Haley for the job. There is evidently some confusion over whether Boss Todd even interviewed with the Cardinals.

The bottom line here is Bruce Arians is now an NFL head coach. This culminates a strange odyssey which began over a year ago when he was happily entrenched as our OC despite constantly drawing the ire of loudmouth yinzers who blame every setback on playcalling. BA was extremely close with QB Ben Roethlisberger and their buddy-buddy relationship was seen as a main reason the Steelers’ offense became more and more pass heavy in recent years. Steelers President Art Rooney II didn’t like this situation and went over head coach Mike Tomlin‘s head to engineer Arians’ firing shortly after the Steelers got Tebow’d out of last year’s playoffs.

Note I said Arians was “fired.” At the time, the dishonest Steelers front office told reporters that Arians was actually retiring. Of course, his “retirement” lasted all of two weeks as he soon accepted a job as OC for the Indianapolis Colts. I don’t mean this to sound callous so please understand when I say with the utmost sympathy and respect that hooking on with the Colts turned out to be an extremely fortuitous move for BA. Indy head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia which left Arians the interim head coach for the bulk of the season. By leading a team full of young players one year removed from the worst record in football to a 9-3 mark and playoff berth, Arians emerged as a hot head coaching candidate.

Arians certainly has his work cut out for him in Arizona. I had my issues with his Flying Circus style of playcalling but he was never as bad as Steeler fans made him out to be. As we saw with Haley this past season, OCs are only as smart as their players execute. You can’t run unless you have a good line and good backs and you can’t score points if your receivers can’t catch the ball.

What Arians is undoubtedly good at is working with quarterbacks. He was the OC in Cleveland when they made the playoffs with the likes of Kelly Holcomb and Tim Couch. He was Ben’s QB guru from the moment he set foot in Pittsburgh. Last season, he did a masterful job with first overall pick Andrew Luck. The QB position was an absolute disaster for Arizona this year so in many ways the choice of Arians would seem a perfect fit.

I think I speak for all of Steeler Nation when I say we wish him well.

 

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Ever since it was announced that Todd Haley would be the new offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers people have been awaiting an eruption. Haley is known as an in-your-face hothead who has had confrontations with players everywhere he’s been. Everybody awaited the inevitable showdown with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Following Saturday’s horrific loss to the Dallas Cowboys, those wishing for a blow-up finally (?) got their wish. Sort of. In his post-game comments, Ben seemed to take issue with the playcalling. Scratch that, he clearly did have issues with the game plan.

Could our long-awaited Big Ben vs Boss Todd showdown finally be here?

Mike Tomlin, in his weekly lie-fest, er, press conference tried to defuse the situation. When asked by reporters if there was a riff between his O-coordinator and star quarterback, Tomlin tersely answered that Ben was “on board with what we’re doing.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement but for a coach who treats minor information like government secrets, at least he sorta answered.

Tomlin’s answer didn’t stop the yinzers from burning up the local sports talk radio lines taking one side or the other. All this talk did was reinforce my opinion that I could never be a talk show host in this town because I’d hang up on 90% of the callers in about thirty seconds. In the space of about two hours, I heard everything from one moron seriously floating the idea that our two-time Super Bowl winning QB couldn’t read defenses to Mark Madden and his legion of brain-dead sycophants floating the idea that Ben should be calling the plays.

This is why I hate when the Steelers are doing poorly. Everybody loses their damn minds.

Let’s have some middle ground here. Ben is a great quarterback. However, he’s not Peyton Manning. I know somebody out there is probably reading that and going all “TWO SUPER BOWLS! HE WINS! PEYTON CHOKES! HERE WE GO, HERE GO!!!” to which I reply, stop being an obnoxious homer. Being a great quarterback doesn’t mean you’re a perfect quarterback.

Peyton has his shortcomings. He could never in a million years make the kind of play Ben made to Heath Miller in Dallas. But Peyton is his own offensive coordinator because he’s extremely cerebral. Ben isn’t. He makes dumb throws and poor decisions all the time. For evidence you need look no further than the pick that ended Sunday’s game. Ben needs an offensive coordinator.

At the same time, Ben should be consulted on the game plan. And I’m sure he is. All quarterbacks are because it’s important the man behind center is clear about the strategy. If you watched HBO’s Hard Knocks series, you’d recall the Jets’ Mark Sanchez and Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill were both involved with their offensive game plans. If a coordinator would consult with those putzes, certainly ours takes into account the views of his QB.

I’ve certainly had my issues with Haley’s offense but I think any talk of firing him is ridiculous. This isn’t some wide receivers coach who got playcalling duties for the first time in his career. Haley oversaw high-powered offenses in Arizona and Dallas. He took a Chiefs team led by Matt freakin’ Cassell and turned Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe into fantasy heroes. Haley knows how to coach an offense.

Has the offense struggled this year? Depends on how you look at it. They’re actually ahead of last year’s pace in terms of point total. Ben is also ahead of last year’s pace in terms of pass attempts, despite missing three games due to catastrophic injury. The fantasy football numbers are down, the team isn’t going to have a 4,000 yard passer, 1,000 yard rusher or two 1,000 yard receivers (Mike Wallace at 823 yards is the only player with a shot at that milestone) primarily due to Haley’s dink and dunk offense. However, stats are for agents and fantasy geeks, points are what matters.

Does Ben have a right to complain? Not really. Then again, Ben never seems to be happy with the offensive coordinator. He and Bruce Arians were extremely tight, to the point Arians was the guy responsible for him being in Milledgeville a few years back (Arians lives nearby during the off-season and Ben only found the area through him). At the same time, Ben used to complain about wanting a tall receiver or trying more no-huddle when the Flying Circus was in town. When the team played the Arizona Cardinals last year, Ben made a comment about how his first O-coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, didn’t let him do enough. Rumor around town is they didn’t get along very well either which partially explains why Whiz was never seriously considered for the Steelers head coaching job.

Ben has a chip on his shoulder. He wants to prove to everybody he’s the best. That’s fine. But it’s the coach’s job to worry about the bigger picture. Letting your QB dictate the offense isn’t part of it.

Besides, if Ben wants to be the man, he should try getting the job done when handed the opportunity. He’s talked about closing games out on offense yet has repeatedly failed when given a chance. The D gave him a chance at the end of the Tennessee game and he didn’t pull it out. He had not one but two chances to win the Dallas game and failed. I’m not discounting all the times Ben has literally snatched victory from the jaws of defeat but this is a what have you done lately business. And lately it hasn’t been the plays that have been called rather the execution of said plays. Until everybody starts playing better, including our franchise QB, it doesn’t matter who is calling what.

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Signs of the apocalypse… Seth MacFarlane, master of crotch and puke jokes, will be hosting the black tie Academy Awards. Lindsay Lohan is suing someone for hurting her. And the newest NFL head coach is Bruce Arians.

Wait, what?

Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia during their bye week. Thankfully, the prognosis is positive and he’s expected to make a full recovery. That’s really good to hear and I, of course, wish him well. Pagano will be undergoing aggressive treatment over the next six weeks, leaving the Colts with no choice but appoint an interim head coach in his absence.

And that man is…

Bruce Arians.

Not bad for a retiree, huh?

Naturally I’m referring to the ridiculous lie Mike Tomlin told the gullible local press when Arians was unceremoniously canned by Art Rooney II. Never bother to tell the truth, such as Arians was fired by a meddlesome know-nothing owner, when a lie will serve just as well. That should be the official motto of Tomlin’s dishonest regime. Unfortunately for them, Arians threw a wrench into their plans when he came out of “retirement”  three weeks later to become the Colts’ offensive coordinator.

Arians will happily cede the position back to Pagano when he recovers from his illness. But if the Colts play well under his direction, it could open up the possibility of a head coaching job in Arians’ future. He wouldn’t be the first former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator to move to the top job. Over the years at least a half dozen former Black and Gold OC’s have gotten the call, including two current NFL head coaches, Chan Gailey and Ken Whisenhunt.

Whiz, it should be noted, is currently at the helm of one of the league’s three remaining unbeaten teams. He’s worked wonders with a Cardinals offense that doesn’t have a legit top-flight QB while former Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton has the Arizona Cardinals playing some of the best defense in football. The Steelers blow on D, the Arizona Cardinals have the Crimson Curtain. The end is truly nigh.

What’s truly ironic is Whisenhunt initially wanted Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler but the Steelers refused to let Dick LeBeau‘s presumed heir apparent go. They seemingly had no problem with Horton heading out west and now it looks like they let one of the brightest young D-coordinators slip through their fingers.

Back to Arians, I’m glad he’ll get a chance at being a head coach, albeit under the worst of circumstances. I had issues with some of his offensive playcalling but when I saw idiot yinzers calling for new O-coordinator Todd Haley‘s head after the season-opening loss in Denver, I realized that their understanding of offense is limited to “Did we win?” Arians produced huge numbers here, including two 1,000 yard receivers, a 1,000 yard rusher and 4,000 yard passer for the first time in Steelers history.

His offense was so beloved by Ben Roethlisberger that he’s still running it. For those who didn’t hear, Big Ben let it slip in the aftermath of the Raiders loss that during the two minute drill, he scrapped the Todd Haley offense and went back to the Flying Circus playbook. Hoooboy. I wonder how many beer cans Boss Todd crushed against his head when he heard about that.

In any case, Ben was clearly a fan of Bruce Arians. And clearly the Colts are happy with him, as well. The Steelers offense has been mostly fine without him so I’m not saying we should regret letting him go. Although we may think differently when Haley grabs Ben’s jersey and reams him a new one for underthrowing a screen pass. The grass, as they say, is not always greener.

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Last night was a depressing night for Pittsburgh sports fans. On the one channel you had the Pittsburgh Pirates continuing their death spiral by literally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Cincinnati Reds tried handing this game to the Bucs, twice leaving the winning run on third with less than two outs in extra innings only for the Pirates to somehow manage to one-up them with the colossally inept feat of not scoring with the bases loaded and NOBODY out. Eventually the Bucs lost a game they needed to win when a AAA pitcher from the Netherlands got into trouble and a AAA shortstop botched an easy ground ball hit right at him.

While this disaster was unfolding, on the Four Letter the other team from Cincinnati were getting their asses handed to them by the Baltimore Ravens. Up 41-13 in the middle of the 4th quarter, coach John Harbaugh proved the old adage that a dick must always be a dick by ordering his first team offense to keep chucking the ball towards the end zone. Maybe he’s under the mistaken delusion that BCS voters determine playoff seeding. Nah, he’s just that big an asshole…

As the annoying pasty baseball stat geeks love to say, “sample size, sample size, sample size.” Granted it was only one game. Granted it was against the Bengals, who appear to have a pretty good defense but at the end of the day the Bungles will always revert back to being the Bungles. Granted it was at home with a team and fanbase geared up over the loss of their beloved owner, Art Modell. Yes, I threw up in my mouth a little typing that.

All that aside, it’s hard to have watched what the Ratbirds put on tape last night and not come away thinking they are the team to beat in the AFC if not the entire NFL.

To give you some idea the difference between them and, oh say, our Pittsburgh Steelers, look no further than each team’s first play of the season. The Steelers had Isaac Redman dive forward for 3 yards. Joe Flacco tossed a 52 yard bomb to Torrey Smith. One team looks like they’ve embraced the NFL’s league wide pass happy offensive explosion. The other looks like a team who should be playing in leather helmets.

The Todd Haley backlash has already begun. Local columnists and talk show hosts got on Boss Todd almost immediately after Sunday night’s loss. On Twitter and sports call-in shows, members of Steeler Nation are already bitching about his play calling. The irony of course being their unhappiness with all the running plays when for the past three years all I heard around town was they needed to “run the ball more/get back to Stiller Football!” Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat, what we saw on Sunday wasn’t Haley’s fault.

The blame for the offense belongs to one man and one man only: Art Rooney II.

The Deuce has told every reporter who’d listen he wants to get back to old school football. It’s widely suspected he was the one who engineered getting Bruce Arians fired when Mike Tomlin had every intention of bringing him back. I had some issues with Arians but the man produced a 4,000 yard passer, 1,000 yard rusher and two 1,000 receivers in the SAME SEASON. No Steelers team had ever done that. What’s more, 80 more yards from Mendy last season and BA’s Flying Circus offense would’ve accomplished that feat TWICE.

You don’t fire a guy who puts up unprecedented offensive numbers if you don’t plan on making a deep philosophical change. And that change comes from the top.

Nobody in the media in going to mention Art II’s name because the Rooney family is revered in Pittsburgh. Rightfully so, might I add. But part of that reverence is due to the Rooneys doing things “the right way.” Part of that “right way” was minimal owner interference unlike you see in the circuses down in Dallas or Miami. Art II got Arians fired, Art II wants the Steelers to play Stiller Football, Art II wants the ball in Isaac Redman’s hands more and Big Ben’s less.

Place the blame where it truly belongs.

Ray Rice is one of the best running backs in football. He had 10 carries all game. Redzone Redman had 5 in the first quarter. Yes the running game dropped off and Haley eventually went no-huddle in the second half but you can’t give away an entire half of football and expect to win consistently. The Steelers offense blew several big chances, most notably an early fumble recovery by LaMarr Woodley which set them up inside Broncos territory. The Ravens got out to a lead early and kept their foot on the gas. The Steelers bumbled around with their 3 yards and a cloud of dust offense until they found themselves in catch-up mode.

Yes, we won the time of possession battle. Here’s a newsflash: time of possession is the most meaningless stat in football. Would you rather grind out an 8 minute drive which sputters out with a FG or go 80 yards in 4 minutes and score a TD (as the Manning led offense did twice against the suddenly shaky-looking Steelers D)?

The Steelers have one of the best QBs in football. They have one of the deepest and most talented groups of wide receivers and tight ends in football. The offense should be in their hands, not the hands of Bowie State. Bruce Arians had it right: you throw to get ahead, you run to maintain it. Yeah, I said it.

That’s NFL Football in 2012. Sorry Artie.

Help me out, folks. Every time you see #FireToddHaley, respond with #FreeToddHaley. Let’s place the blame where it truly belongs.

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By Hennessy

Ladies and gentlemen, the Flying Circus has left the stadium. Ever since Bruce Arians took over for Ken Whisenhunt, February has traditionally been Fire Arians month. For all of the Bruce haters, your day has finally come. For his supporters? Stay tuned to see if he will be coaching Andrew Luck or if he will be getting coached by Peyton Manning. For me? The only intriguing part of the coaching change was Deuce Rooney’s gall to stick his fingers in the middle of the salsa, and then go back for the double-dip. Which, for the record, was a real jackass thing for any member of the Pittsburgh Steelers front office to do, Rooney or not.

Allow me to expand on my opinion. I view coordinators and assistant coaches with a passive eye.  The job of the coordinator is to develop plays that work for his team, put the players through practices that effectively hone their skill at those plays, and stand on the sideline calling said plays, hoping they are executed correctly. That’s it. Sure they have some secondary responsibilities, such as “motivating” their troops, but the Steelers already have people effective at that. He wears #86 and ESPN reports we are trying to shove him out of town prematurely.

When Todd Haley took over the offensive reins in Dallas, he did what a lot of lucky coordinators do. He rode out the storm until talent came along that could execute what he had been doing all along. They went from just over .500 to 13-3! It must have been because of Haley and newly appointed head coach Wade Phillips! No, it was because of a guy named Romo who at least started off his career playing great football.

Coordinators and assistant coaches are, to me, the equivalent of a swim cap or really tight bicycle shorts. They are an edge in an otherwise even sport, one which might pay off every once in a while when those fractions of a second matter. At the end of the football game, it is Wes Welkah that catches drops a pass to bring not bring the Lombardi back to Bahhhstahhn, and the coordinator doesn’t have a damn thing to do with it. Just like the .0000001th of a second Michael Phelps gets from his latex head condom won’t win the meet if he hit the bong too hard before jumping in the pool.

Was Arians capable of crafting, teaching, and calling plays? Yes. Is Chief Haley capable of doing this? Apparently. Do I sense a momentum shift in the entire offense because of our new Fast & Furious leadership and the exit of Bruce the Bubble Screen wizard? Absolutely not.

I wish the best of luck to Bruce out in Indianapolis, and extend a warm greeting to Chief Haley. Fortunately for him and us fans of the Black and Gold, the offensive talent is already in place. It’s up to Haley to build on that talent and keep the playbook fresh. Here’s to many seasons of him not screwing anything up or yelling at players on the sidelines while hopefully Deuce Rooney keeps his mitts off the plate delegated to Mike Tomlin and his staff.

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Anybody else expecting a nice quiet off-season for the Pittsburgh Steelers?

If so, you’ve got to be sorely disappointed. The Steelers coaching carousel continues to go round-and-round with yesterday’s news that linebackers coach Keith Butler is in serious negotiations to join the Indianapolis Colts as their defensive coordinator. Butler has long been tabbed as Dick LeBeau‘s heir apparent to the point the Steelers refused to allow him to interview with Pittsburgh West Arizona about their DC job last summer. However, his contract is up this year and with LeBeau returning next season, it looks like he’s sick of waiting his turn.

In a twist of irony, if Butler does leave for Indianapolis, he’ll join ex-offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was named the Colts OC on Friday. Wait, I thought BA had “retired?” That bald-faced lie went up in smoke faster than Bret Favre’s last three “retirements.” In fact, team president Art Rooney II (who from this point on, I’ll nickname the Deuce as to separate him from the one true honorable Art Rooney) has now all but admitted it was his call to can Arians.

“I think the questions of how we got here are not really relevant,” the Deuce told the Post-Gazette when pressed on the issue of where the dismissal of Arians came from. If that non-denial denial wasn’t damning enough, he all but outed himself two sentences later when he said, “I think it was time for a change, and we’re looking forward to moving on.” Oh, YOU think it’s time for a change, huh Artie? What does your HEAD COACH think? Or doesn’t his opinion matter?
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All season long, I’ve pointed out the Pittsburgh Steelers penchant for lying. The national media even jumped on the story briefly when Mike Tomlin repeatedly used the term “concussion-like” symptoms rather than straight up saying whether or not a player had been concussed. As annoying as I find Tomlin’s weekly misinformation campaigns aka press conferences, I do kinda understand why he does it. A lot of coaches have an almost dictatorial attitude when it comes to keeping team secrets. Bill Belichick is legendary for putting every single malady right down to the last hangnail on his team’s injury report in an effort to cloud the issue. So while I may find it ridiculous for Tomlin to tell reporters one of his lineman has a broken toe when he actually tore his ACL, I sort of understand why he thinks he has to do it.

But now we have the saga of Bruce Arians.

When news came down that BA had “retired” from his job as offensive coordinator, I put that information in quotes because something smelled fishy. During the season, rumors swirled that Arians was a contender for the head coaching job at Georgia Tech, a rumor Arians squashed by saying he had no interest in kissing the ass of high school punks. When the season ended, Tomlin told local reporters he expected his entire staff back next year. Then team president Art Rooney gave an interview where he basically threw the offense under the bus and next thing you know Arians is “retiring.”

Arians was recently interviewed by the York Daily Record and now it comes out that he did not leave of his own accord as the Steelers would have you believe. The “retirement” angle is evidently the cover story floated by Steelers management to obscure the fact they didn’t offer him a contract for next season. Arians went on to say he would not rule out a return to coaching while currently weighing “five or six” offers from other teams. He also confirmed the rumors that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is “not happy” about his dismissal.

The key part of the story is where Arians says Tomlin told him several times he wanted him to return. Which means either Tomlin lied to his face or the decision to replace Arians came from Art Rooney. Neither is a particularly positive option. If Tomlin fibbed, well, lying to the media is one thing but being dishonest with your fellow coaches doesn’t exactly speak well of your leadership. If the decision came from Artie, nothing ever goes wrong when you have an owner who interferes in the day-to-day operations of his team.

Ask Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder.

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Let’s take a walk down memory lane. The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers had a hugely disappointing season was the Super Bowl Hangover year of 2009. Shortly into the off-season, rumors began flying fast and furious that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would be out on his ass. The local media began eulogizing his tenure in their columns while the Steeler blogs who turned #FireArians into an official meme of Steeler Nation were positively orgasmic.

Only thing left was receiving official confirmation from Steeler management. Of course, it never came. The story goes Ben Roethlisberger made a last minute plea to Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney on behalf of his buddy and they acquiesced to the wishes of their superstar quarterback. If not for Big Ben’s timely  intervention, Arians and his Flying Circus would’ve been sacrificed at the altar of Black and Gold failure.

Fast forward to the present. We recently completed the 2011 season, which was much more successful than the miserable 2009 campaign, although it ended just as badly. Big Ben surpassed 4,000 yards passing for the second time in his career (and team history), directing an offense which finished 12th overall and 10th through the air. Despite those accomplishments, not to mention being one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, rumors are again swirling that Arians is on the way out.

Come hell or high water, Mike Tomlin always gets his man.
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What? Know Thy Enemy on a Wednesday? This can mean only one thing: Thursday Night Football! And if you thought ESPN picked a lousy slate of games, man, you ain’t got nothin’ on the NFL Network.

It seems like every year, the AFC North is a three horse race. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are the two thoroughbreds in the hunt pretty much every season. The third horseman alternates between the Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. When one is up, the other is usually down.

During the 2009 Super Bowl Hangover year, Cincinnati took advantage of the opening by winning the division before flaming out spectacularly in their lone playoff game. Last year, the Bungles were a mess, hijacked by the clown show being put on by Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. It was the Browns turn to look like a legitimate NFL franchise. Even though they didn’t win many games (5), rookie quarterback Colt McCoy led the team during a surprisingly competitive stretch which had people believing in a bright future for Cleveland.

Oh, those silly silly people…

The Browns are back in their customary position of irritating little bugs while the Steelers are the windshield headed right toward them tomorrow night.
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Your old pal Chris here. A couple weeks back, I ran a special Guest Blogger column by longtime reader Hennessy. His post generated the most comments in Total Steelers history clearly indicating yinz guys like him better than you like me. Since I’m still stunned and angry over the Baltimore game and, left to my own devices, I’d write five posts ranting about the various travesties that happened on Sunday, I figured it might be nice to bring in a relief pitcher to change things up a bit. Take it away, Hennessy…

The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted five quarterbacks since 2000, all of them in the fifth round, except, of course, Ben Roethlisberger. The brightest star in that group was Ex-Tennessee Volunteer Tee Martin, mostly because he had a pretty cool name which sounded particularly good in Pittsburghese. As we learned (the hard way) last Sunday, not to mention with the parade of human traffic cones who man the offensive line every season, we’ve clearly had greater areas of need in recent drafts. But this season and the success of Young Money have me hoping there is a plan to develop a game-ready mentor to Ben in the coming years.

I never thought I would find myself in this position, but Bruce Arians has made me a fan of the pass-first offense. That’s not to say I don’t shudder every time I hear someone saying we are getting away from “Steeler Football” (because we are, and yinzers don’t take well to change with the Stillers). There might not be anything more fun to watch than the pounding football of old, but the way Ben snaps, scrambles and throws has been pretty entertaining. And whadda ya know, he’s winning a lot of damn football games doing it.
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