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Old 11-19-2010, 01:53 PM   #1
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Default Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

Nothing most of us already know.

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Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake and Look at Steel City's Struggles
By Nick DeWitt (Steelers Featured Columnist) on November 17, 2010

After the 2006 NFL season concluded, the Pittsburgh Steelers went into a transition that saw, among other things, Mike Tomlin replace Bill Cowher as head coach and Bruce Arians replace Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator.

Things have gone downhill for Arians, who in his second stop as an NFL offensive coordinator is proving to be an anvil around the necks of a talented offensive unit.

If the Steelers are to have any hope of making the playoffs and then a run at the Super Bowl title, they need to either relieve Arians of his duties or force him to make the following changes to the team's offense.


This may be a news flash to Bruce Arians, but you cannot use the same game plan against every team. In an era of unprecedented video footage, camera angles, and computer analysis, you can barely use the same formations and plays against two different teams.

Arians likes to run the same sort of plan each week. First, he tries to establish the run by sending Rashard Mendenhall up the middle a couple of times. Then he calls a bubble screen to Hines Ward. Then, if it's not time for a punt, he runs the ball again or has Ben Roethlisberger throw out of a bunch formation.

Every week. I'm not joking.

The worst thing that could have happened was for Art Rooney to openly demand a return to power football. It gave Arians the license he needed to continue the run, run, pass offense that he's come to favor.

The Steelers are so predictable that even pedestrian NFL fans can, with a little time watching them on offense, call the plays for Arians.

Veteran NFL coaches? They're eating this up. They know with a great deal of certainty that the offense will be relatively balanced, but that running plays will come on early downs, passes on third downs, and that the Steelers use relatively few formations.

Don't you think it's time for something new?


Every NFL team has plays that they are comfortable running and that have a high degree of success with their personnel.

Conversely, every team has plays that they simply cannot get to work. Good teams and smart coaches don't run those plays very often. Sometimes, they'll work by accident or because of the element of surprise, but they know that more often than not they fail.

Not Pittsburgh. Here's a look at some of the plays that Bruce Arians calls that either consistently fail or fly in the face of the team's personnel:

1. Wide Receiver Bubble Screens

It's dangerous, especially without tall receivers, to throw passes along the line of scrimmage. There are too many bodies there who can mess things up. Also, if that pass is picked off, it's almost certainly a touchdown. Most teams don't run bubble screens because of this. If you have a tall receiver, sometimes it's more simple because you can chuck it high enough that only that player can get the ball.

Pittsburgh doesn't just run this play. The Steelers run in regularly. They almost always throw towards Hines Ward too. Teams are starting to catch onto this and it's a shock that they've taken this long. The Steelers were a good screen (not bubble screen) team with Willie Parker. Now, it's an unhealthy obsession. Even when complete, the yardage is minimal.



2. The Stretch and the Toss

When you have a speedster at running back, it makes sense to use a toss/stretch play because the play then begins at the corner. All the running back has to do is run forward and possibly skip a tackle to gain positive yards.

When you don't have a lightning fast runner, it's a death sentence because slower backs start further back with the ball and aren't built to get outside and run up the sideline. A better choice would be off-tackle runs, where the running back gets the ball to the outside of center but only must hit a hole and run through it.

Pittsburgh has run the stretch/toss play for years. It doesn't seem to matter who's on the roster either. None of the team's backs is capable of being a blazing runner. Rashard Mendenhall is great off tackle, cutting back, and going through the middle. He's not an outside runner. But Bruce Arians has no problem sending in this type of play, which almost always results in zero or negative yardage.
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Old 11-19-2010, 02:50 PM   #2
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

agree 100%

honestly i think without ben the coaching staff was forced to actually you know, game plan, that's why we were a better team in the first 4 games. with ben back it's like we've reverted back to the predictable stuff we've been seeing for the last 3 years
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Old 11-19-2010, 03:06 PM   #3
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

I was at that crappy Patriots* game last week, and by the middle of the second quarter, I was predicting the play we would run next, with a 75% accuracy. The people in the row behind me (who FLEW IN FROM MEXICO CITY and barely spoke English) thought I was a genius who used to work for the Steelers. THAT'S SAD. If I can call our plays, what the hell do you think a true opposing NFL coaching staff could do?
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Old 11-19-2010, 03:13 PM   #4
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

Completely agree. I've been screaming about the bubble screen since last season. We simply CANNOT execute this play. And wasn't it during the Monday night game that they ran this play back-to-back for a total of something like 2 yards? They threw it to the right to Hines Ward ... then the very next play they threw it to the left to ... wait for it ... wait for it ... Hines Ward! Great call Arians!

I get so angry when I see other teams execute this play for 8 to 10 yards. I think we are so predictable that the defenders don't even have to try to think, they just react. Very frustrating.
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Old 11-19-2010, 03:22 PM   #5
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

Arians does not know how to design screen plays.

IN the situation we were seeing on our offense against the Pats, a screen would be the correct call-- if we could run something other than those slow developing, very predictable WR bubble screens.

Mendy seems to have good hands, and the few times we ran a HB screen, he gashed the other team for 20+ yards. WHy do we always seemingly try to do the opposite of what works on offense?

Here's an idea Brucie...since Ben is such dynamite out of the no-huddle-- WHY DO WE WAIT UNTIL THE SITUATION IS DESPERATE BEFORE WE PULL OUT THE SECRET WEAPON? WHy not come out once in a while in the no-huddle, bury the other team by 2 TDs, and THEN start the run, run, pass crappola?

I really miss the Whiz as an offensive coordinator (but would not want him as head coach)....he knew how to call an aggressive offensive gameplan. If he were still our Ocoordinator, we wouldn't have to wait until midway through the 4th quarter every week to see our offense score their first TD....
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Old 11-19-2010, 03:24 PM   #6
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu Pidasso View Post
I was at that crappy Patriots* game last week, and by the middle of the second quarter, I was predicting the play we would run next, with a 75% accuracy. The people in the row behind me (who FLEW IN FROM MEXICO CITY and barely spoke English) thought I was a genius who used to work for the Steelers. THAT'S SAD. If I can call our plays, what the hell do you think a true opposing NFL coaching staff could do?
I hear you, stu.

I don't know the official names of the plays, but watching Steelers games, I have been calling their moves on offense with an almost flawless rate of accuracy (hmmm....here comes an off-tackle run to the right, here comes that ugly bubble screen, here comes an abortion of an up-the-middle run...etc.)
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Old 11-19-2010, 03:37 PM   #7
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

very true. I've been saying for weeks (alot of weeks) now that we are easily the most predictable team in the NFL on offense (getting to be defense too......)
1. They come out with Mendenhall up the middle. And up the middle. And up the middle. And up the middle. And next? you got it....up the middle.
He has success when a variety of plays are run but look at the last 5 games or so. Once he runs up the middle everybody and their grandman know's whats coming next. And sure enough he's been getting STUFFED behind the line way more than he should be. Mendenhalls yard-per-carry stat is somewhat misleading as he'll get stuffed behind the line 4 times, then he'll break out a 28 yard run. Then some buffoon will say, "hey, he's got a 5 yard per carry avg..."
2. And right about the screen to Hines. Jesus, i think it was 2 weeks ago they RAN the same play twice in a row. For god's sakes.
3. If we get the ball inside the 5 yard line on 1st down? Yep....you guessed it. Run up the middle. Run up the middle. Run up the middle. Field goal 'attempt'. Its no wonder we can't score in the red zone.

I agree with the author....in this day and age of film, video and more, you cannot run the same formation and same plays constantly. If everybody else gets it, i don't understand why Tomlin doesn't get it.
Does Rooney really sit up in the box and say "great job, guys..." ?
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Old 11-19-2010, 03:38 PM   #8
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

Unfortunately for Arians to go it will probably be necessary for the Steelers to miss the playoffs again this season - until then nobody is going to work on crafting an offense that does not involve futile runs followed by Ben dropping back and the running around rather than taking a quick drop and getting the ball out to a receiver

It is like being a Chargers fan and realizing when the Chargers underperform but win the division it means another year of Norv Turner

The one change from previous years is that Roethlisberger has lost clout to protect Arians and that Tomlin might be worried the Rooneys might be looking at him if another season falls apart and other heads do not roll

Lots of pressure on Sunday with the Raiders game - other tha LeBeau and Troy I do not see a lot of calming influences in a situation where the seaosn could be in mortal peril in around 48 hours
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Old 11-19-2010, 05:13 PM   #9
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

I really don't want to miss the playoffs with the talent on this team. However, I am so tired of Arians. I wish the Gazette or Tribune would write an article pointing out the obvious.
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Old 11-19-2010, 05:59 PM   #10
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Default Re: Pittsburgh Steelers: The Bruce Arian Mistake

Early on when so many were calling for Arians' head I wasn't one of you/them. But these days....wow...it's so hard to not want to see him replaced. It saddens me that we've got the talent but not the permission to kick ass. But if we do see Arians replaced; then how far does that set us back?
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