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02-03-2009, 06:56 AM

Big Ben, Arians are now off the chopping block
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
TAMPA, Fla. -- Note to e-mailers: Here are a couple of subject lines I think you can put away for a while.

Put Leftwich in there!

Get Arians out of there!

Cease and desist is what I'm saying, for the next era of Steelers football is now fully formed, and it is all about Ben Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who believe in each other to the core of their convictions and their attack philosophies.

Gifted and fearless, No. 7 and his play caller will be the show around here for the long term, and while that might irritate the working-class sensibilities of those who believe you can't play Steelers football without a labor-intensive commitment to running the ball, the accomplishments of Big Ben and the guy who essentially turned the offense over to him upon the departure of Ken Whisenhunt have now outflanked all arguments.

That's part of what happens when you win the Super Bowl, when the $102 million quarterback takes the offense 88 yards in two unforgettable minutes, when the offensive coordinator flouts all conventions regardless of field position.

"You have to give it to them; their game plan worked," said Arizona Cardinals corner Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie. "They know I play off the line. They got me early on with a lot of short routes, then on the [last] touchdown pass, we were in a zone, and when Ben Roethlisberger got to scrambling, my read was bad and I got taken out of my zone."

Rodgers-Cromartie is a rookie who had his inexperienced nose rubbed in it by Ben and the man they call B.A., and wound up with the best and worst view of the winning touchdown, the stunningly brilliant throw-and-catch with Santonio Holmes in the end zone's back right corner.

"I was right there," he said. "I knew he caught the ball. I wanted to drop my head but that's not me. You can't even describe the feeling of hurt and pain that you see in the players' eyes."

The Cardinals had Super Bowl XLIII won when Larry Fitzgerald galloped 64 yards down the middle for his second touchdown, the one that put Arizona ahead 23-20, the one that followed the series in which Arians proved again that the new Steelers' offense is aggressive no matter what.

Backed to their 1-yard line with 3:26 left on the Raymond James Stadium clock and the Steelers ahead 20-14, Arians called a play 99 percent of coordinators would avoid at that spot in the field in a Saturday morning JV game, let alone one that was being watched by 95 million people.

I would not have risked so much as a handoff at that spot. I'd have Ben plow forward and be thankful for every inch and the opportunity to take 30 seconds off the clock.

Instead, Roethlisberger took a five-step drop into his own end zone and whipped one to Hines Ward in the right seam. What brass. Ward dropped it. Ben handed it to Parker on second-and-10 at the 1. No gain. On third-and-10, Roethlisberger was back in his end zone, scrambling, finally lasering a pass that hit Holmes on the breastbone at the 20. Holmes somehow held it, but a holding penalty in the end zone resulted in a safety.

This is the kind of thing that drives Steelers traditionalists crazy, but if the purpose of more conventional play calling is to control the ball (other than, you know, scoring and perhaps winning), there is no evidence that Arians' freewheeling comes at the expense of possession time.

Look at the swallowed clock in the Steelers' scoring drives: 5:15 elapsed, 7:12 elapsed, 8:39 elapsed, and, in the full heat of urgency, 2:05 to cover 88 yards to glory.

Arians is only at the front edge of the game's offensive evolution, much as Dick LeBeau remains there for the defense. Sure, the New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers have exemplary conventional running games, but I didn't see them in the Super Bowl. Two thirds of the league ran the ball better than the Steelers this season, but Arians' offense still won the possession battle in 15 of the 19 games including Sunday's 33:01 to Arizona's 26:59. Against San Diego in November, when the Steelers didn't score a touchdown, they held the ball for 36:31 and won the game anyway.

This was a Super Bowl in which the effective ground game was almost strictly a memory. It included the fewest rushing first downs by both teams (6), the fewest rushing attempts by both teams (38), and the fewest rushing yards by both teams (91). Even at that, Arians called 26 running plays, while Ben threw 30 passes.

When he went on the field for the last time, Ben's overall issue was whether he had a sixth winning fourth-quarter, come-from-behind performance in him in the same season, and a lot of people suspected he did.

"All I was thinking was, 'Just be Ben,' " defensive captain James Farrior said he was thinking in the Florida darkness. "Just be yourself, make the plays and be smart. And that's what he did."

All the way to victory, which is the real definition of Steelers football.

Gene Collier can be reached at gcollier@post-gazette.com. More articles by this author
First published on February 3, 2009 at 12:00 am

I get a lot of what Collier is saying, but one area I disagree completely is with BA inside the 5 yard line. Call it execution, lack of ability, or what not, but his play-calling ALL SEASON in that area was miserable. I cannot help but think that this is exactly why Tomlin chose the FG over going for it on 4th in the 1st quarter. Don't get me wrong, I thought BA did an outstanding job exploiting Rogers-Cromartie and finding some room for Heath, but I would sincerely hope with some added help on the line this off-season and time to analyze things he will do a better job in the next season.

02-03-2009, 08:30 AM
A-ha! A Super Bowl victory isn't even enough.

Doesn't matter, BA will be back. In fact, there's like a pretty large sized bet riding on it with several of us on this board in on the action.

I think I'll buy some Steelers SB gear with my take:tt03:

02-03-2009, 09:11 AM
As much as I would like to see him gone you don't see too many changes with coordinators that just won a SB.

Just hope he ends up in an illegal gambling ring or something over the summer!