Hold The Champagne: Arians Stays

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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  • patrick bradshaw

    say what u will its tomlin that needs 2 go the steelers made the biggest mistake not hiring ken whisenhunt n keepin russ grim as line coach just look at the facts n quit makin excuses 4 him ‘tomlin’ i dont know what kind of hold he got on the rooneys but at best he’s a def coordinator n we dont need that we got lebeau

  • patrick bradshaw


  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know how to begin to respond to that diatribe.

  • patrick bradshaw

    truth hurts huh

  • Tenser

    While surprised as all hell to hear it, I’ll admit I’m also pleased. If he can maintain our yardage and improve our 6:3 ratio I’ll be happy on that end.

    So when does the special teams coach get the axe?

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Bottom line on Arians is they have to maintain drives and score more TDs or Ben throwing for 6,000 yards won’t save him. 40
    yard bombs are nice and all but that can’t be your entire game plan. I hate the West Coast Offense so I don’t mind stretching the field but Arians needs to learn churning out yards with runs and short passes isn’t a bad thing.

    As for Ligashesky, I won’t be surprised if he’s let go but he probably shouldn’t be. Blaming him for the coverage fiasco is like buying rotten eggs and then blaming the cook when the omelet tastes like crap. Every time we find a great special teamer like Chidi Owouma, Anthony Madison, or the awesome Sean Morey, either Tomlin or Colbert let them go. Ligs had Stefan Logan on coverage last year. LOGAN! I love the guy but he’s 5’6 175 pounds. Sepulveda would crush him in a blocking drill.

  • Robyn

    I think Mr. Bradshaw up there is forgetting that the Steelers also missed the playoffs after winning super bowl XL. and super bowl XIV for that matter. Chill out pal, there’s always next year. you can’t win ‘em all!

  • “O”

    Great point Robyn. You really can’t win them all. As bad as we all think it is, it really isn’t all that bad. There are teams whom have not been in the post season for years and years. Just remember how good we really have it having a team that always seems to be in the hunt. Every year our team could be the ones raising the trophy at the end of the season. That alone is enough to be proud of. Maybe having a new O line coach will shake things up, that and a good draft may turn things around. You can’t put all the blame on the coaches because they are not the ones on the field. Game plans and execution are two different things. Time will tell.
    Go Steelers

  • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

    Thank you, Robyn. Honestly, I never understood why fans from other cities described Steeler fans as annoying until I started this blog. While I appreciate the passion of Steeler Nation, it seems like some of yinz expect us to have a Pro Bowler at every position and win the Lombardi every year. Let’s be reasonable here, people.

  • steelspikes

    Sorry to hear BA is staying. Steeler’s ppg. avg. was slightly lower in 2009 than it was in Ben’s rookie yr. under OC Wisenhunt. All the hoopla re 4k yds passing and other stats didn’t win games. In today’s NFL, shutdown defenses like the Steelers had in ’08 are a rarity (13.9 ppg). Hopefully next yr. we can do better than allowing 20 ppg. Still, the scoring avg. has to go up. Today’s elite NFL offenses (Pats, Colts, Chargers, Saints, etc.) all avg. scoring at least 26 ppg. That’s where Steelers need to get. If Arians can’t do it in 2010, then it should be his last yr.