Over the past several days, rumors have been flying about what changes might be in store for the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. When you go from Super Bowl champions to missing the playoffs, the fanbase naturally wants a scapegoat. And the easiest target is usually either the quarterback or a coach. Since we all seem to agree that the team has a good signal caller in Ben Roethlisberger, the ire has fallen on offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
Well, put away the champagne. The circus will coming back to town next year.
Despite radio reports to the contrary, head coach Mike Tomlin has invited Arians back as OC next season. Now, as anybody who has read this site regularly knows, I am not a member of the Arians Nation. I frequently find his offensive philosophy frustrating and counter intuitive to what the team’s talent dictates. However, as I’ve said all along, I was pretty certain that he would be retained for another year. When you have a quarterback throw for 4,000 yards, two 1,000 yard receivers, and a 1,000 yard running back all in the same season for the first time in franchise history, it’s a little hard to justify starting over from scratch.
Yes, the team had a lot of trouble in the red zone. Yes, they frequently pissed away chances to put games away. And yes, it took them fourteen weeks to realize short screen type throws and 20+ rushes per game made for a much more effective offense than throwing a deep bomb every three plays. However, blaming the offense for missing the playoffs is hugely unfair. The offense actually averaged one more point per game than last year while the defense gave up 6 more.
In other words, the failure of this season was a total team effort.
While I doubt Arians learns from this year’s mistakes, I am not all that unhappy about giving him another season to straighten things out. People (and I’m guilty myself) often have the kneejerk FIRE HIM! reaction when things don’t work out. While that sounds great in theory, it’s much more complicated in practice. I love Ben, I really think he’s a top five NFL quarterback. But I also think he’s a bit of a meathead. Part of his holding the ball for 4 1/2 minutes on every pass play seems to be that he takes a while to recognize what’s going on. And this is with using same playbook for over three years now. Can you imagine how he’d be if we brought in a brand new OC and he had to learn an entirely new system?
One coach who didn’t escape the ax was offensive line coach Larry Zierlein. How Zierlein has kept his job all these years totally baffles me. One would think sending bukkake porn links to Dan Rooney would be enough to get you canned. I realize Ben holds the ball too damn long but when your line gives up 50 (or more) sacks EVERY YEAR, that’s putrid. Not to mention, the run blocking schemes are so messed up that getting short yardage is always an adventure. Perhaps the worst thing about Zierlein is his seeming inability to develop young linemen or improve veterans. Young OL never get on the field unless they come into camp already with a degree of polish while I defy anybody to name any multi-year starter who has improved under Zierlein’s tutelage.
With a rash of coaching staffs getting the heave-ho, I’m sure the Steelers will be able to find an experienced line coach. To be honest, I don’t think our line in past years has been all that great talent-wise, they were just coached up by the great Russ Grimm. If the Black and Gold can find a similar grizzled old timer who can put some of their lazy unmotivated blockers (I’m looking at YOU, Max Starks) through their paces, maybe Arians will have an easier time calling a run on third and 4. Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?
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