Arians Gone and What it Means for the Steelers

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I'm so happy I feel like streaking right now, "It's Cool Bring Your Green Hat! Come On Everybody!," Image Courtesy of hark.com

We’re goin’ streakin!  Woooooooooo!  For those of you that haven’t been reading my posts, I’ve been a proponent of the Steelers getting rid of their newly-retired Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians for the last four seasons.  If my jubilant yet comical nature offends anybody I must apologize, but my distaste for the underachievement and inconsistency of the Steelers’ Offensive output reached an all time high during the 2011 season.

In lieu of yesterday’s news, I figured that today’s post would be centered around which players stand to benefit the most from Arians’ departure and why.  Furthermore, I’d like to discuss the merits of some of the candidates which might be considered to fill the newly vacant O.C. position.  So let’s get started shall we:

Who Benefits and Why

Big Ben:

I’m sure Ben is a tad salty now, because he was arguably the only supporter Arians had during his tenure in Pittsburgh.  Nevertheless, Big Ben should be thanking his lucky stars that the Steelers will now be able to acquire their “pick of the litter” of Offensive Coordinators.

It seemed like at times during Arians’ career in Pittsburgh that he would rely too much on Ben to go “no-huddle” in the final 2 minutes and just hope and pray he could extend broken plays to move the ball in crucial situations.

The Offense to me seemed like it lacked a true identity, and at times the semblance of a game plan appeared to be non-existent one week (Houston, Kansas City), while another the Offense would be firing on all cylinders (New England, Tennessee, Cincinnati #2).  In fact, during numerous games over Arians’ tenure the Offense would be hot in one Quarter, but then just go stagnant no more than 10 minutes later, or vice versa (Cincinnati #1, Indianapolis, AFCWC Jaguars, AFCC against Jets, Super Bowl XLIII).  If you want me to give you more examples of each, I will, but for the sake of brevity I’ll leave you with this sampler platter from above.

Don't fret Ben, this could be the best thing for your career, Image Courtesy of forbes.com

Even though Ben likely defended Arians until the bitter end, he will be benefiting immensely from Bruce’s departure.  With a new coordinator, there will come a system and a comprehensive and consistent game-plan that will likely play to his team’s strengths and do whatever possible to help Ben become the best and most efficient QB he can be (I’ll get to this in further sections).

Who knows?  Ben might be putting up better numbers if the Steelers can roll out a consistent game-plan week after week and the new guy can keep the Steelers talented Offense going at all times.  Ben has so many weapons at his disposal, and if the new Coordinator has 20-20 vision he will see how much more dangerous this Offense can be with a QB of Ben’s caliber leading it.  All it will take is the Coordinator doing his job to make this happen.

 

Miller, Saunders, Redman and the Red Zone Offense:

These three guys have to be thrilled that someone else will be calling the plays in 2012, especially in the Red Zone.  Pittsburgh has been one of the poorest Red Zone teams in terms of TD% over the last few seasons (18th last season with a 50.91% TD scoring percentage), and a big reason why is that many weapons have been largely ignored and the play-calling has not been centered around these guys’ strengths.

Maybe instead of the 5-7 ridiculous nancy-pants, college, bubble-screens run per game and sometimes in the Red Zone under Arians’ tenure (that 3rd and 7 one to Wallace on Drive 1 in Denver still is giving me nightmares), the Steelers will look more to their enormous and athletic TE’s (Heath Miller and Weslye Saunders) when their Offense needs some important yardage to sustain drives and score points as well.

Big Heath might enjoy some career years with a new Coordinator, Image Courtesy of nypost.com

Maybe instead of going with telegraphed and obvious runs with “Twinkle-Toes” Mendenhall (a.k.a. the 4 straight rushing plays against Cleveland), the new Coordinator will use their big-bodied guys inside the 20 against LB’s and Safeties and create matchup issues.

The Tight Ends on Pittsburgh’s roster are too darn athletic to be wasted in the Red Zone and neglected like they have been over the years.  They add a dimension that many teams cannot adequately defend against. and the Steelers have the QB to make the opposition pay.

I did have issues with Arians use of his RB’s in the Red Zone as well.  Instead of Mendenhall being the Red Zone “Bell-Cow,” Isaac Redman was almost nowhere to be found on the ground and through the air while down there?  Redman has proven time and time again that he is willing to grind out the tough yards and get the necessary amount instead of cutting it back like Mendenhall.  Why not let him pound the rock?

Furthermore, why is Redman (as well as Mendenhall) just a check-down option in the passing game?  The guys have the hands to be at least dangers in the screen game and even on the RB slants you’ve run with Me-Mo?  (BTW, that TD play against New England was utterly predictable.  Had I been on the Pats. sideline I would have told them to guard against the Me-Mo slant because I told my Brother-In-Law exactly where that play was going when Moore lined up there pre-snap.  It would have been six the other way had I been a Pats. Coach, but I digress)

For a team to underachieve so much in the Red Zone with the amount of talent they have on the Offensive side of the ball like the Steelers have had in recent years is reflected not only in their Red Zone efficiency numbers, but the points per game put up as well.  In fact, Pittsburgh has only topped out at 23.9 Points Per Game in a season since 2008!  That’s nice if you’re the Browns and Colt McCoy is your QB and “McLovin” Massaquoi is your #1 target, but for a team like the Steelers?  Mediocrity at its best.

Sure, the Arians supporters will point to Pittsburgh’s rankings in Total Offensive Yards over the last 5 years, as well as new Offensive records being broken in terms of total yards during his tenure as well.  However, yards don’t always equate to Offensive success, and these people need to recognize how the Steelers’ leaving points on the board due to bad play-calling and game-planning has cost this team too many times.

This squad ranked tied for 21st in scoring this past season with 20.3 Points Per Game, and that number is downright putrid.  There is no excuse for this type of talent to be putting up those kind of numbers.  No excuse what-so-freakin-ever.  Drives need to be finished when they enter the opponents’ 20 yard line, no ifs ands or buts about it.  Hopefully this new Coordinator will not make the same mistakes as Arians and help to remedy these Red Zone play-calling and scoring woes.

 

Offensive Line:

This is the group which will inevitably benefit the most from Arians shipping out of town.  I’ve alluded to it on numerous occasions, but the work Sean Kugler has done as the O-Line Coach over the last two seasons is nothing short of remarkable.  With the litany of injuries and the lack of talent he’s had to work with, Kugler deserves high praise.

I wrote an article a few months back asking people to reconsider and redirect their vitriol and criticism from the O-Line to Arians himself with regards to who was to blame for the Steelers’ Offensive woes.  I discussed that a lot of the reason the Steelers weren’t succeeding, and hadn’t succeeded much over the years was because Arians’ play-calling simply exposed the weaknesses of his own O-Line.  For example:

If the new O.C. schemes to help Pittsburgh's O-Line, they should be in much better shape, Image Courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Why the heck would you be calling 5-7 step drops with your QB without a side-car and expect a patch-work O-Line to consistently keep him upright?

Remember San Francisco?  You know, where the Running Game was actually doing a nice job against one of the League’s best Run D’s?  And you Bruce, you had a hobbled Ben fire close to 50 passes and allowed him to be hung out to dry against the 49ers deadly pass-rush?

That being said, why not hit these quicker guys like Brown and Wallace, or guys that run solid patterns like Sanders on slant patterns to get the ball out of Ben’s hand quicker?

Every second counts, and Ben finding these guys quickly and efficiently gets not only him on a roll, but the Offense as well.

Why wouldn’t you get Ben on rollouts and move the pocket in an attempt to get the ball out of his hands faster and not get drilled every freaking time?

Ben is a large dude, I get it, but he’s mobile enough and accurate on the run (you know on those broken plays you wait for every game) to hit guys on a consistent basis.

Why wouldn’t he take better advantage of the Defense’s over-aggressive pass-rush and hit them with screens and draws to his TE’s and RB’s which have adept hands?

I’ll repeat it again.  I’m not trying to make it seem like the Offensive Line is without blame for the protection issues that the Steelers have had since 2008.  They have played downright lousy at times and should shoulder at least part of the blame.  Yet let me reiterate, Arians’ play-calling and lack of scheming around his O-Line’s weaknesses has created more problems over the years than there rightfully should have been.

Sure Ben, it’s great throwing for over 4,000 yards twice and making 2 Pro Bowls.  But what good are stats when you are getting hung out to dry each and every week and have to run for your life every week because your coordinator won’t scheme around the less than stellar O-Line?

There is room for hope however, because if the Steelers can acquire a stand-out Guard this off-season to add to a Line likely consisting of LT- Gilbert, C- Pouncey, RG- Legursky, and RT Colon, Pittsburgh will have themselves a pretty stout situation if all of them stay healthy.  Not terrific, but decent nonetheless.  If the Coordinator can recognize and game-plan around this group’s strengths and avoid their weaknesses, the Steelers should be in a good spot.

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  • Steelers972

    I agree with almost everything you say here. However, it should be mentioned that probably the best in house candidate is Kirby Wilson, before his tragedy. I haven’t heard much good news lately from his recovery and would be surprised of he is able to make it back to coaching anytime soon, but if he is then he deserves a big look. He’s turned an undrafted guy and multiple late round picks (Redman, Dwyer, Clay, maybe Batch) into solid performers in the backfield. He would also understand just how effective these guys could be and get back to a more balanced attack. I guarantee a guy who has a history as a RB coach and knows the Steelers’ RBs as well as him, would never have let Ben sit back and be a tackling dummy against the 49ers

  • DomDiTolla

    Spot on. I was actually going to include Wilson, but decided against it due to the horrific tragedy which struck him and his family. He would have definitely been in my Top 3 though.

  • Steelers972

    I agree with almost everything you say here. However, it should be mentioned that probably the best in house candidate is Kirby Wilson, before his tragedy. I haven’t heard much good news lately from his recovery and would be surprised of he is able to make it back to coaching anytime soon, but if he is then he deserves a big look. He’s turned an undrafted guy and multiple late round picks (Redman, Dwyer, Clay, maybe Batch) into solid performers in the backfield. He would also understand just how effective these guys could be and get back to a more balanced attack. I guarantee a guy who has a history as a RB coach and knows the Steelers’ RBs as well as him, would never have let Ben sit back and be a tackling dummy against the 49ers

  • DomDiTolla

    Spot on. I was actually going to include Wilson, but decided against it due to the horrific tragedy which struck him and his family. He would have definitely been in my Top 3 though.

  • LadyRider1946

    @steelersbuzztap Maybr we will get a better offense

  • LadyRider1946

    @steelersbuzztap Maybr we will get a better offense

  • ls40095

    Cut Tomlin.. Getting rid of Arians is a long-term band-aid but its Art2s only move at this point.

    At least media homers and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher are calling Tomlin on his Neanderthal decision to play Pouncy and Roethlisberger injured in meaningless games. What would Sean Payton or Belichick have done? In addition to resting their best players prior to the playoff run, I can see both of them running down the sidelines in Denver to call a time out with 25 seconds left at the end of the game at midfield. Why not sit Big Ben and Pouncy in the SF and Cleveland games? Because the players and Bruce Arians felt they could play and Tomlin agreed…….GB recently rested Aaron Rodgers prior to the playoffs and the backup QB threw for 500 yards…

    At least Cowher was clearly the “head coach” and would have gone to Denver better prepared. He had differences with his coordinators and keeping Big Ben in line but Tomlin did nothing to make necessary adjustments down the stretch and in the Denver game….If Belichick were coaching the Steelers would he have stood and watched Ike Taylor on an Island GET BURNED over and over and over and finally over again in OT?……………. He would have at least attempted a field goal at the end of the game.

    Mike Tomlin needs to take charge of his team by committee or st

  • ls40095

    Cut Tomlin.. Getting rid of Arians is a long-term band-aid but its Art2s only move at this point.

    At least media homers and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher are calling Tomlin on his Neanderthal decision to play Pouncy and Roethlisberger injured in meaningless games. What would Sean Payton or Belichick have done? In addition to resting their best players prior to the playoff run, I can see both of them running down the sidelines in Denver to call a time out with 25 seconds left at the end of the game at midfield. Why not sit Big Ben and Pouncy in the SF and Cleveland games? Because the players and Bruce Arians felt they could play and Tomlin agreed…….GB recently rested Aaron Rodgers prior to the playoffs and the backup QB threw for 500 yards…

    At least Cowher was clearly the “head coach” and would have gone to Denver better prepared. He had differences with his coordinators and keeping Big Ben in line but Tomlin did nothing to make necessary adjustments down the stretch and in the Denver game….If Belichick were coaching the Steelers would he have stood and watched Ike Taylor on an Island GET BURNED over and over and over and finally over again in OT?……………. He would have at least attempted a field goal at the end of the game.

    Mike Tomlin needs to take charge of his team by committee or st

  • JLaw2

    @DomDiTolla

    Agreed. I’m really not wanting that wild card pick of yours though. Hoping that whomever takes the reigns doesn’t deflate the ball so much that our hot young recieivers don’t abandon the team asap. Being from the StL I don’t get much news from the burgh. Whats the latest on Kirby’s status??

  • JLaw2

    @DomDiTolla

    Agreed. I’m really not wanting that wild card pick of yours though. Hoping that whomever takes the reigns doesn’t deflate the ball so much that our hot young recieivers don’t abandon the team asap. Being from the StL I don’t get much news from the burgh. Whats the latest on Kirby’s status??

  • DomDiTolla

    @JLaw2 Here it is, doesn’t look very good at all:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57360959/steelers-coach-wilson-still-critical-after-fire/

    Poor dude deserved his shot, but he likely won’t be getting it this season.

  • DomDiTolla

    @ls40095 I agree with you that Tomlin needs to take a firmer hand in dealing with his assistants, but I couldn’t disagree with you more about Cowher.

    Dude was an ultimate choke-artist during his time in Pittsburgh. Losses in the ’94, ’97, ’01, and ’04 AFCC Games all happening at home? All games where the Steelers had the talent to win and were favorites, yet still lost due to uninspired and unprepared play. Yeah, Bill Cowher much better than Mike Tomlin.

    The blame for the Denver game rests on LeBeau and his piss-poor strategy and his penchant for scheming to allowing teams to drive down the field in the last 3 seasons. How he has escaped blame is beyond me.

    Tomlin will not be fired and will at least be allowed to finish up his contract. He’s not going anywhere in the meantime.

  • DomDiTolla

    @JLaw2 Here it is, doesn’t look very good at all:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57360959/steelers-coach-wilson-still-critical-after-fire/

    Poor dude deserved his shot, but he likely won’t be getting it this season.

  • DomDiTolla

    @ls40095 I agree with you that Tomlin needs to take a firmer hand in dealing with his assistants, but I couldn’t disagree with you more about Cowher.

    Dude was an ultimate choke-artist during his time in Pittsburgh. Losses in the ’94, ’97, ’01, and ’04 AFCC Games all happening at home? All games where the Steelers had the talent to win and were favorites, yet still lost due to uninspired and unprepared play. Yeah, Bill Cowher much better than Mike Tomlin.

    The blame for the Denver game rests on LeBeau and his piss-poor strategy and his penchant for scheming to allowing teams to drive down the field in the last 3 seasons. How he has escaped blame is beyond me.

    Tomlin will not be fired and will at least be allowed to finish up his contract. He’s not going anywhere in the meantime.

  • JLaw2

    @DomDiTolla @JLaw2 Dang was hoping for a lil bit better news than what I had last heard which pretty much matched this article. Thanks

  • JLaw2

    @DomDiTolla @JLaw2 Dang was hoping for a lil bit better news than what I had last heard which pretty much matched this article. Thanks

  • RickHarmon

    @DomDiTolla @ls40095

  • RickHarmon

    @DomDiTolla @ls40095
    Gotta remember Cower went to 6 AFC champion-ships in 14 years and only won 2 with more talent on offence and defence..I just think Tomlin has so much trust in Lebeau he dosent want to second guess him.. but again he is the head coach and the team responds to him top to bottom. As far as playing Ben hurt, they had a chance at home field and a bye in the 1st round basicly untill week 16..blame Arians for his protection scheams or lack of..deep drops with and empty back-field and a shady O-line? Who dose that? Mike T isn’t going anywhere asking as he keeps the Steelers winning..Arians is gone, maybe its time for a defensive change of philosophy as well.

  • RickHarmon

    @DomDiTolla @ls40095
    Lol piss poor is an understatement..if he wants Troy around the line so much why not just ask him to play middle-linebacker and find another younger faster safety?
    Dose he not realize Pitts pass
    rush isn’t what it use to be,that was they key to the zone blitz..upfront pressure and disguise in the secondary..none of that is working combined with Troy gambling no wounder they got TEBOWD! And I’m tired of hearing about Mundy playing and not Clark..Lebeau and Arians dropped the ball in Denver.

  • RickHarmon

    @DomDiTolla @ls40095

  • RickHarmon

    @DomDiTolla @ls40095
    Gotta remember Cower went to 6 AFC champion-ships in 14 years and only won 2 with more talent on offence and defence..I just think Tomlin has so much trust in Lebeau he dosent want to second guess him.. but again he is the head coach and the team responds to him top to bottom. As far as playing Ben hurt, they had a chance at home field and a bye in the 1st round basicly untill week 16..blame Arians for his protection scheams or lack of..deep drops with and empty back-field and a shady O-line? Who dose that? Mike T isn’t going anywhere asking as he keeps the Steelers winning..Arians is gone, maybe its time for a defensive change of philosophy as well.

  • RickHarmon

    @DomDiTolla @ls40095
    Lol piss poor is an understatement..if he wants Troy around the line so much why not just ask him to play middle-linebacker and find another younger faster safety?
    Dose he not realize Pitts pass
    rush isn’t what it use to be,that was they key to the zone blitz..upfront pressure and disguise in the secondary..none of that is working combined with Troy gambling no wounder they got TEBOWD! And I’m tired of hearing about Mundy playing and not Clark..Lebeau and Arians dropped the ball in Denver.

  • SonnyDrysdale

    It won’ matter who the new OC is if they don’t spend money on the line. They also are in need of a blocking TE, they don’t have one to go with Miller. Saunders can’t block or wont block. He also needs to work on his route running. In the SF game the first interception that Ben threw was because Saunders ran the wrong route and brought his defender into the zone.. Miller would never do that but they need him to block

  • SonnyDrysdale

    It won’ matter who the new OC is if they don’t spend money on the line. They also are in need of a blocking TE, they don’t have one to go with Miller. Saunders can’t block or wont block. He also needs to work on his route running. In the SF game the first interception that Ben threw was because Saunders ran the wrong route and brought his defender into the zone.. Miller would never do that but they need him to block