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.
I’m by no means an Arians apologist. I was breathing heavily right along with those aforementioned bloggers when the first firing story surfaced back in 2009. However, since then I’ve done a 180 on the Flying Circus. You have to play to your strengths and the bottom line is here in 2012, the Steelers best offensive players are their young receivers and playmaking quarterback. We can talk about the running game and Stiller Football all day but unless they drastically overhaul their roster, a wide open pass-first offense is going to be their best mode of attack.
I’m not going to pull an Al Michaels, who sent the Pittsburgh Twitterverse into a frenzy by suggesting Arians is an unsung genius who should be in the running for every head coaching position on the planet. Yes, some of his playcalls drive me absolutely crazy. Particularly his WR Screen fetish, which he runs at least four or five times every game despite it working maybe once every third GAME. And the team did have some struggles offensively this season, particularly in the red zone. If the Steelers score touchdowns on those first two possessions against Denver instead of settling for field goals, perhaps they’re still playing this weekend.
But is that Arians’ fault? I’ve come to the conclusion bitching about coordinators has become the NFL fans’ new “wanting to play the back-up QB.” Once upon a time, the quality of QBing was so good, teams would have back-ups who you could legitimately want to see play. Nowadays, playing your #2 is tantamount to waving a white flag. Consequently, the fans’ attention has been diverted to the coordinators.
In New York, the Jets dismissed offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer, whom the fans blamed for Mark Sanchez sucking this year. Never mind the fact that maybe, just maybe, Dirty Sanchez simply isn’t that good. Meanwhile, over at our sister blog, Total Packers, hysterical Cheeseheads are actually calling for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to be fired over the Pack’s epic one-and-done meltdown. Those who remember Capers when he was our D-coordinator know he’s one of the best in the business and any shortcomings they may have had on defense likely stem from personnel, not scheme.
After all, players play and coaches coach.
Unfortunately, that old saying has fallen on deaf ears recently. It’s hard to turn over your entire roster one year to the next so it’s a lot easier to replace the coordinator. It’s the football equivalent of slapping a fresh coat of paint on the dilapidated old shandy you call a house. It’s still the busted up old shack you lived in before, it just looks nicer from a distance.
Tomlin seems hellbent on sending the Flying Circus packing. This time, not even a last minute phone call from Ben may be enough to stay the execution. Could the Steelers do better on offense? Absolutely. They also could do a whole lot worse. Bottom line is unless they bring in offensive lineman who can actually keep Ben upright while also not devising a defensive game plan that sells out on the run but lets wide receivers run free 40 yards down field, it’s not going to matter much who calls the plays.