View Full Version : Arians Gone and What it Means for the Steelers

01-21-2012, 08:21 PM
Arians Gone and What it Means for the Steelers
AUTHOR: Dom | IN: Steelers | COMMENTS: 5 Comments |
Home Steelers Arians Gone and What it Means for the Steelers

I'm so happy I feel like streaking right now, "It's Cool Bring Your Green Hat! Come On Everybody!," Image Courtesy of hark.com

We’re goin’ streakin! Woooooooooo! For those of you that haven’t been reading my posts, I’ve been a proponent of the Steelers getting rid of their newly-retired Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians for the last four seasons. If my jubilant yet comical nature offends anybody I must apologize, but my distaste for the underachievement and inconsistency of the Steelers’ Offensive output reached an all time high during the 2011 season.

In lieu of yesterday’s news, I figured that today’s post would be centered around which players stand to benefit the most from Arians’ departure and why. Furthermore, I’d like to discuss the merits of some of the candidates which might be considered to fill the newly vacant O.C. position. So let’s get started shall we:

Who Benefits and Why

Big Ben:

I’m sure Ben is a tad salty now, because he was arguably the only supporter Arians had during his tenure in Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, Big Ben should be thanking his lucky stars that the Steelers will now be able to acquire their “pick of the litter” of Offensive Coordinators.

It seemed like at times during Arians’ career in Pittsburgh that he would rely too much on Ben to go “no-huddle” in the final 2 minutes and just hope and pray he could extend broken plays to move the ball in crucial situations.

The Offense to me seemed like it lacked a true identity, and at times the semblance of a game plan appeared to be non-existent one week (Houston, Kansas City), while another the Offense would be firing on all cylinders (New England, Tennessee, Cincinnati #2). In fact, during numerous games over Arians’ tenure the Offense would be hot in one Quarter, but then just go stagnant no more than 10 minutes later, or vice versa (Cincinnati #1, Indianapolis, AFCWC Jaguars, AFCC against Jets, Super Bowl XLIII). If you want me to give you more examples of each, I will, but for the sake of brevity I’ll leave you with this sampler platter from above.

Don't fret Ben, this could be the best thing for your career, Image Courtesy of forbes.com

Even though Ben likely defended Arians until the bitter end, he will be benefiting immensely from Bruce’s departure. With a new coordinator, there will come a system and a comprehensive and consistent game-plan that will likely play to his team’s strengths and do whatever possible to help Ben become the best and most efficient QB he can be (I’ll get to this in further sections).

Who knows? Ben might be putting up better numbers if the Steelers can roll out a consistent game-plan week after week and the new guy can keep the Steelers talented Offense going at all times. Ben has so many weapons at his disposal, and if the new Coordinator has 20-20 vision he will see how much more dangerous this Offense can be with a QB of Ben’s caliber leading it. All it will take is the Coordinator doing his job to make this happen.

Miller, Saunders, Redman and the Red Zone Offense:

These three guys have to be thrilled that someone else will be calling the plays in 2012, especially in the Red Zone. Pittsburgh has been one of the poorest Red Zone teams in terms of TD% over the last few seasons (18th last season with a 50.91% TD scoring percentage), and a big reason why is that many weapons have been largely ignored and the play-calling has not been centered around these guys’ strengths.

Maybe instead of the 5-7 ridiculous nancy-pants, college, bubble-screens run per game and sometimes in the Red Zone under Arians’ tenure (that 3rd and 7 one to Wallace on Drive 1 in Denver still is giving me nightmares), the Steelers will look more to their enormous and athletic TE’s (Heath Miller and Weslye Saunders) when their Offense needs some important yardage to sustain drives and score points as well.

Big Heath might enjoy some career years with a new Coordinator, Image Courtesy of nypost.com

Maybe instead of going with telegraphed and obvious runs with “Twinkle-Toes” Mendenhall (a.k.a. the 4 straight rushing plays against Cleveland), the new Coordinator will use their big-bodied guys inside the 20 against LB’s and Safeties and create matchup issues.

The Tight Ends on Pittsburgh’s roster are too darn athletic to be wasted in the Red Zone and neglected like they have been over the years. They add a dimension that many teams cannot adequately defend against. and the Steelers have the QB to make the opposition pay.

I did have issues with Arians use of his RB’s in the Red Zone as well. Instead of Mendenhall being the Red Zone “Bell-Cow,” Isaac Redman was almost nowhere to be found on the ground and through the air while down there? Redman has proven time and time again that he is willing to grind out the tough yards and get the necessary amount instead of cutting it back like Mendenhall. Why not let him pound the rock?

Furthermore, why is Redman (as well as Mendenhall) just a check-down option in the passing game? The guys have the hands to be at least dangers in the screen game and even on the RB slants you’ve run with Me-Mo? (BTW, that TD play against New England was utterly predictable. Had I been on the Pats. sideline I would have told them to guard against the Me-Mo slant because I told my Brother-In-Law exactly where that play was going when Moore lined up there pre-snap. It would have been six the other way had I been a Pats. Coach, but I digress)

For a team to underachieve so much in the Red Zone with the amount of talent they have on the Offensive side of the ball like the Steelers have had in recent years is reflected not only in their Red Zone efficiency numbers, but the points per game put up as well. In fact, Pittsburgh has only topped out at 23.9 Points Per Game in a season since 2008! That’s nice if you’re the Browns and Colt McCoy is your QB and “McLovin” Massaquoi is your #1 target, but for a team like the Steelers? Mediocrity at its best.

Sure, the Arians supporters will point to Pittsburgh’s rankings in Total Offensive Yards over the last 5 years, as well as new Offensive records being broken in terms of total yards during his tenure as well. However, yards don’t always equate to Offensive success, and these people need to recognize how the Steelers’ leaving points on the board due to bad play-calling and game-planning has cost this team too many times.

This squad ranked tied for 21st in scoring this past season with 20.3 Points Per Game, and that number is downright putrid. There is no excuse for this type of talent to be putting up those kind of numbers. No excuse what-so-freakin-ever. Drives need to be finished when they enter the opponents’ 20 yard line, no ifs ands or buts about it. Hopefully this new Coordinator will not make the same mistakes as Arians and help to remedy these Red Zone play-calling and scoring woes.

Offensive Line:

This is the group which will inevitably benefit the most from Arians shipping out of town. I’ve alluded to it on numerous occasions, but the work Sean Kugler has done as the O-Line Coach over the last two seasons is nothing short of remarkable. With the litany of injuries and the lack of talent he’s had to work with, Kugler deserves high praise.

I wrote an article a few months back asking people to reconsider and redirect their vitriol and criticism from the O-Line to Arians himself with regards to who was to blame for the Steelers’ Offensive woes. I discussed that a lot of the reason the Steelers weren’t succeeding, and hadn’t succeeded much over the years was because Arians’ play-calling simply exposed the weaknesses of his own O-Line. For example:

If the new O.C. schemes to help Pittsburgh's O-Line, they should be in much better shape, Image Courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Why the heck would you be calling 5-7 step drops with your QB without a side-car and expect a patch-work O-Line to consistently keep him upright?

Remember San Francisco? You know, where the Running Game was actually doing a nice job against one of the League’s best Run D’s? And you Bruce, you had a hobbled Ben fire close to 50 passes and allowed him to be hung out to dry against the 49ers deadly pass-rush?

01-21-2012, 08:22 PM
That being said, why not hit these quicker guys like Brown and Wallace, or guys that run solid patterns like Sanders on slant patterns to get the ball out of Ben’s hand quicker?

Every second counts, and Ben finding these guys quickly and efficiently gets not only him on a roll, but the Offense as well.

Why wouldn’t you get Ben on rollouts and move the pocket in an attempt to get the ball out of his hands faster and not get drilled every freaking time?

Ben is a large dude, I get it, but he’s mobile enough and accurate on the run (you know on those broken plays you wait for every game) to hit guys on a consistent basis.

Why wouldn’t he take better advantage of the Defense’s over-aggressive pass-rush and hit them with screens and draws to his TE’s and RB’s which have adept hands?

I’ll repeat it again. I’m not trying to make it seem like the Offensive Line is without blame for the protection issues that the Steelers have had since 2008. They have played downright lousy at times and should shoulder at least part of the blame. Yet let me reiterate, Arians’ play-calling and lack of scheming around his O-Line’s weaknesses has created more problems over the years than there rightfully should have been.

Sure Ben, it’s great throwing for over 4,000 yards twice and making 2 Pro Bowls. But what good are stats when you are getting hung out to dry each and every week and have to run for your life every week because your coordinator won’t scheme around the less than stellar O-Line?

There is room for hope however, because if the Steelers can acquire a stand-out Guard this off-season to add to a Line likely consisting of LT- Gilbert, C- Pouncey, RG- Legursky, and RT Colon, Pittsburgh will have themselves a pretty stout situation if all of them stay healthy. Not terrific, but decent nonetheless. If the Coordinator can recognize and game-plan around this group’s strengths and avoid their weaknesses, the Steelers should be in a good spot.

Possible Replacements

Tom Clements

With Joe Philbin’s hiring in Miami as the new H.C., this guy will be a heck of a lot tougher to pry away from Green Bay than before. Nevertheless, I still feel like he is a more than qualified candidate, and should be at least one of the Top 3 choices.

Clements has had a great run in Green Bay, and did a great job helping Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox, Image Courtesy of kcchiefs.com

Clements (a McKees Rocks, PA native) has done a terrific job as a QB Coach in the N.F.L. during his numerous stops. For those of you that don’t remember, Clements was the Steelers’ QB Coach from 2001-2003 and helped Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox enjoy successful seasons. Who knows what he would have done as Ben’s Coach as a youngster, because he moved on to Buffalo to be the O.C. under Mike Mularkey, but I’m sure Ben would have benefited greatly from his tutelage.

Since 2006, Clements has been Green Bay’s QB’s Coach and has been instrumental in the development of Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn. There is no denying his success as a position coach in the N.F.L., and I think the Steelers would be wise to bring him back to Pittsburgh for at least an interview. The Steelers have weapons, and Clements has proven during his career that he can help a talented QB (Rodgers) attain greatness by using them correctly.

Randy Fichtner

It would be downright negligent to overlook the Steelers best in-house candidate to fill Arians’ shoes in 2012 and beyond. And since the Steelers are an organization that has promoted within recently (Arians from WR Coach to OC, Fichtner from WR Coach to QB Coach, etc.), this one has a distinct possibility of happening.

Fichtner is a “Tomlin Guy” (both worked together at Arkansas State) and was brought in by Tomlin when he was hired by the Steelers in 2007 to serve as the Steelers’ WR’s Coach. As I alluded to before, Fichtner has worked his way up within the organization and has a great understanding of the talent on Pittsburgh’s roster.

Furthermore, Fichtner has developed a great rapport with Roethlisberger over his years in Pittsburgh, so that is always a plus. In fact, he is headed to O’ahu this weekend for the Pro Bowl with Ben, his wife, Arians, his wife, and his own wife to take in the Pro Bowl festivities.

Brian Schottenheimer

Driven out of New York due to his own Offense’s inconsistency, Brian Schottenheimer is now on the open market, and he could be a guy the Steelers could think about wooing.

Schottenheimer had a six year run in New York ended almost two weeks ago as “heads needed to roll” after the Jets missed the Playoffs in 2011. As late as last season, Schottenheimer’s name was up for Head Coaching jobs, so the guy has obviously drawn some interest.

Some will point to New York’s Offense sputtering last season as a reason not to hire Schottenheimer. However, I believe a lot of Schottenheimer’s problem in New York was the fact that Mark Sanchez was exposed as being a mediocre at best QB and the Offense sputtered when he had to do it all by himself. Mix in Santonio’s meltdown, the constant bickering, rumors of New York having toxic locker room, and Rex Ryan’s constant bravado, you have a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure that if his Pop (Marty) gets the job in Tampa Bay, that’s where Brian will likely be headed. However, it’s not too late for the Steelers to throw their hats into the ring and give Schottenheimer something he never had in New York: A Franchise QB.

Brian Billick (Wild Card)

I know that many of you may be shuddering at the thought of this, but Billick is my “Wild-Card” pick for the job. I won’t lie to you, I want to take a cold shower and do what Ace Ventura did when he found out Einhorn was a man at the thought of Billick being associated with the Steelers. However, the more I consider Billick as a candidate, the more I think he could conceivably get an interview and have something to offer the Steelers.

Billick was wildly successful as Minnesota’s Offensive Coordinator in the late 1990′s, and proved to be a pretty darn successful Head Coach while in Baltimore (hurl). Granted, Billick’s Offense’s in Baltimore were pathetic at times, but you really couldn’t blame the play-calling. They really only had Jamal Lewis and Todd Heap as weapons, a terrible WR Corps, and no QB. Shame that Jonathan Ogden’s wonderful blocking and Hall of Fame play were wasted on such an impotent Offensive attack, but hey, that’s the way it goes.

I could honestly see Billick taking this job based on a few factors: First in Pittsburgh, he has the same type of weapons and caliber of players on his Offense that he had in Minnesota, and it wouldn’t take very much to get production out of the Steelers’ Offense. Next (and most importantly), if Billick isn’t offered a Head Coaching job this offseason but still wants a great stepping stone to get back into the N.F.L., this position and a subsequent terrific effort by Billick as the Steelers’ O.C. would lead to teams beating their doors down for his services. Finally, the revenge factor. How sweet would it be for Billick to stick it to the franchise which fired him with Baltimore’s biggest rivals?

Don’t get me wrong, Billick is a dark-horse in this race. However, I think that if he isn’t offered any of the open Head Coaching positions this off-season, Clements and Schottenheimer go elsewhere, and Fichtner isn’t “the guy,” Billick at least deserves consideration.


I don’t want to speak too soon, but I can say with full effect that Arians’ departure will end up being an “addition by subtraction” for the Steelers. In the event they can hire somebody that does a passable job and simply works with the ridiculous amount of talent that the franchise has on the Offensive side of the ball, we could be looking at one of the League’s most potent Offenses in 2012.

I mean, this is probably one of the most attractive, if not the most attractive off-season coaching vacancies that is available right now. The organization is solid from top to bottom. The rest of the Coaching Staff is fantastic. Pittsburgh has a “Franchise QB,” has talent at all the skill positions, and has an improving O-Line. Passing up this job would akin to telling the Publishers Clearing House people a vehement “No” when they came to your door with one of those ridiculously huge checks.

Humor aside, let’s bask in the knowledge that we will no longer be treated to 3rd an 7 Bubble Screens, watching WR shovel passes, TE’s ignored in the Red Zone, Red Zone inefficiency, and Ben dropping back on a bum foot almost 50 times in a game. There is still work to be done in terms of finding a new Coordinator and filling two more spots on the O-Line, but at least the Offense has a chance to get better with Arians stepping aside.

Anyways, now it’s your turn readers: Chime in with your thoughts. Are you celebrating now? Should the Steelers be happy? Who do you think should get the job? Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts.

Follow me on Twitter (@DominicDiTolla)

01-21-2012, 08:56 PM
It'll be in house or someone out of left field - no "big" names

I'm a little worried about in-house choices being too buddy buddy with Ben yet again. As successful as Ben has been - he is N_O_T great at reading defenses and too often checks into a predictable call. For the sake of championships and Ben's health - he needs someone to slap him upside the head and do what will move the chains and score 7s. We can only benefit from a balanced offense. No sense in having a healthy Ben drop back 40 to 50 times on average. It is time to figure out how to run well enough to get the defense to bite on play action. There is a reason Ben works out of the shotgun so much when passing - he has pretty much forgotten how to do play action and that, along with no rollouts and not enough 3 step drops is a crime.

Oh yea - and the general discipline of the offense in crunch time is deplorable.

01-22-2012, 02:43 AM
Agreed, we need an outsider. Wilson would have been good since he would likely get us running again, but he wont be back in time. I might be wrong but I see our qb coach being similar to Arians.

01-22-2012, 06:22 AM
Interesting read, although I a somewhat curious as to why Todd Haley would be left off his list. My wild card would be Russ Grimm, but in either case they aren't going to be the Steelers OC.
I think Clements can be had even with Philbin going to Miami (isn't McCarthy the main play caller for GB offense?)and IMO he should be the guy Tomlin and the Steelers target. With Clements his work with Ben would be important, but look what he did for Flynn, to me , with a QB like Ben who is oft injured the backup becomes very important (who ever that may be next season)
Hopefully we get this sorted out in the next couple of weeks.