How to find a new Bruce Arians
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
By Gene Collier, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Oddly enough, the Rooneys have not solicited my suggestions on whom to talk with about replacing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, likely because I was not in total agreement with his sudden "retirement."
This won't be the first time I wasn't consulted on urgent policy matters, nor is it unprecedented for my opinions on a range of football issues to be pointedly ignored. By random example, I've made it clear to various Rooneys throughout the years that I'd prefer the Steelers have cheerleaders, but they apparently feel I'd be better off spending the timeouts asking God's forgiveness for even the thought of objectifying young women, and/or praying to Saint Vincent, the patron saint of ball security.
But, today, I fear they seriously are overcomplicating the offensive coordinator search, particularly in a city where there is an offensive coordinator every 30 feet. In fact, when they announce the attendance at Heinz Field, I think they now say, "Today's attendance, 63,881 offensive coordinators."
On a daily two-mile walk with my belligerent Airedale, I typically meet two to four offensive coordinators, which is how I know Jim Kreiger. Jim's standards for modern offensive football are so high that he calls talk shows to criticize Tom Brady.
"Hines Ward, you have to get rid of him," Jim said Tuesday. "I mean he was great. I loved watching him. A great Steeler. Great for the city, all that, but it's time to go. I'd also consider getting rid of Charlie Batch. He's gettin' up there. Now this one, people will say I'm nuts, but I'd think about trading Ben [Roethlisberger]. He's 29, and I think he's just average, maybe a little better than average. I think you could get something for him."
This is what I like about Jim. I was talking to him about the offensive coordinator's job, but he jumped right to vice president of pro personnel. Jim, what about the play-calling?
"Too predictable," he said. "It's very obvious to me it's always run the ball, run the ball, throw the ball. They should mix it up a little. Other teams don't seem to do that."
This is about where it occurred to me that, if the Steelers were overcomplicating the search, perhaps I was guilty of oversimplifying it, and that just walking around the neighborhood did not necessarily meet the professional standard of due diligence.
So I went to Giant Eagle.
I knew there would be at least one strong candidate at the Camp Horne Road store, because that's where I saw the guy with the leather-sleeved 5 TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS jacket that time, but this was after Super Bowl XLIII, so he had ripped off a three-inch square of duct tape, covered the big '5' on the back with it, and wrote '6' right on the duct tape.
That's the kind of attention to detail you need in an offensive coordinator.
I didn't find that guy, but, in the parking lot, I talked with Raymond Connolly, who gave a good presentation and had some football experience on his resume. High school, yeah, but around here, that's closer to pro than a lot of places.
"Anybody but [Arians]," Raymond said. "We've got to run the ball more. Get a fullback. Get back to basics. Quit giving Ben his way all the time. I've been watching for a long time. We've got to get back to some ball control. All that talent and no points."
That's not exactly what Art Rooney II said last week, but it's not exactly not, either.
As the Steelers' search progresses, you might notice that only men are being considered. My own preliminary interviews were under no such arbitrary restriction.
"I like the way the offense has been going; I like the play-action and I like the passing, but I'd mix it up more," Jeanne told me from behind the lottery tickets at the gas station. "I think the mentality of this team and these fans is that we expect to win, but you can't run the same old thing all the time. You have to mix it up when your progressions aren't working."
Progressions tended to break down for Arians, according to my candidates, specifically in the red zone.
"My motto would be," Jane Ubb told me at the Northland Public Library, "red zone equals end zone. If you get it to the red zone, you have to put in the end zone."
Forgot to ask her how soon she could start.
But, in the interest of thoroughness, and so no one might accuse me of failing to conduct a nationwide search, I interviewed Billy Gardell, the Pittsburgh native now the co-star of the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly."
I started by mentioning that the person who succeeded Arians would need skin thicker than a pachyderm.
"My skin's been that thick since I was 9," said Gardell via cell as he was pulled into work in Los Angeles. "Look, we've been going to the pass too quick. The first thing I'd do is start that [John] Clay at running back and pound him at them in the first quarter, like we used to do with [Jerome] Bettis. That will set up Ben's play-action and sets up our quick receivers because the safeties will have to come up.
"When we get the lead, I'd run it up like it was a college team and then I'd bring back the big back. Then, we don't have to spend the last six minutes wondering if we're gonna get the ball back in time to score."
Sounds like five strong candidates to me. I assume any of 'em will work nights and weekends. No need to thank me.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Too bad we can't find a new beat writer for the Steelers. - mesa)