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The Bruce Arians/Ben Roethlisberger Dynamic


What is the definition of Steeler football? We talk a lot about a hard-hitting stout defense, and a gruesome rushing attack, but where does the pass fit in? When I think of Steeler football, I get images of Jack Lambert, Mean Joe, and Franco Harris. Run the ball, control the clock, and play great defense.

But isn’t the NFL changing?

The new rules, though mostly frustrating for Steelers fans and players, could actually benefit us on the offensive side of the ball as well. We have yet to see the refs protect Ben Roethlisberger, but with these new rule changes, I would be surprised if I didn’t start seeing the yellow flags fly even when it’s Big Ben being hit. So what does this mean for the nature of Steeler football, and in particular, the run game vs. the pass game?

Ben Roethlisberger has said time and time again that he is a fan of Bruce Arians. Often the punchline of many Steelers jokes, Arians doesn’t exactly command the same kind of respect from the fans. I’m not going to lie, when I see a 3rd and 1 or a 3rd and 2 and then I see a five-wide formation and, subsequently, an incomplete pass I tend to scratch my head. I’ve even been known to yell and scream at Arians from the Steelers bar I attend every week, hoping that at some decibel level, he’ll actually hear my cries of complaint.

As a former QB himself, the dude likes to pass, and as it turns out, so does Big Ben. Ben is the most dynamic quarterback the Steelers have had in many years. The last QB we had that could lead us to the Super Bowl was Neal O’Donnel, and we all know how that turned out. Before that it was Terry Bradshaw. So, we know based on the facts of the game that Ben is a special player. He makes clutch things happen when they need to, and he wins games.

But I wouldn’t necessarily say he is a dynamic passer.

Brady, Manning, Brees, even Rivers…those guys are dynamic passers. Their run games are also nearly non-existent (with the exception of Rivers’). Ben Roethlisberger won’t rack up all those attempts that those guys do because he has Rashard Mendenhall who can take a load off of his shoulders. Ben and Bruce, though, they love to pass. Given the opportunity, I think Ben could prove himself to be a truly great passer in this league.

Even with the increase in pass attempts and the less-than-usual run/pass ratio, we still identify ourselves as an old school team with old school values. What we need to consider though, is that as offenses get more tricky, and teams run 5 wide more often, we are going to need to start relying on our offensive to be a dynamic scoring attack as well. The way this league is going, and the rule changes that will likely be implemented this season points to a game in which teams score more points, and the defense plays less of a roll in the domination of a team.

Yeah, I really don’t like the thought of it either, but think about the possibilities. Mike Wallace and Hines Ward are still incredibly reliable WRs, if not some of the most dangerous in the league. Add to that the developing Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown, and the always sure-handed Heath Miller, and you’ve got a recipe for excitement on the offensive side of the ball. We didn’t make the playoffs in 2009 due to a very untimely 5 game losing streak, but it was in 2009 that we really got to see what Big Ben is capable of.

He threw for over 4,000 yards and we had two WR over 1000 (Hines/Holmes) and a RB over 1000 (Mendy). Add that recipe of danger to our rediscovered stifling defense (remember the 4th quarter woes in 2009?) and you’ve got a team for the new age of football that is already set up to win in the long run.

I must admit, when Tomlin kept Arians after the 2009 season, I was a bit skeptical. Somehow I managed to blame all of our fourth quarter losses on him, when it was really the defense that needed the scolding. Now, after a second Super Bowl appearance since become the Steelers’ OC, I couldn’t be happier with where we are at. As far as I see it, as long as Big Ben is happy and comfortable, and feels like the coaches are behind him, holding on to Arians was never a sketchy decision. It was always the right thing to do.

Chalk it up as another moment where Tomlin was able to make the best decision, even if the alternative may have crossed his mind. What I am particularly excited about, is watching Big Ben progress with the young receivers – Mike, Manny, Brown – on the team. I think that his four week suspension really deterred a very important developmental period with those players last season. With everyone at full strength, and with the preseason and gelling period of the beginning of the season fully in tact, I think we will all be very surprised at what this offense is capable of.

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Tags: 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger Bruce Arians