Since his rookie year in 2004, Ben Roethlisberger has had it pretty damn good when it comes to consistency and stability with his offensive schemes. Prior to last week, Big Ben has had as many offensive coordinators in the past eight seasons as the rest of Steelers Nation has had head coaches in the past 20 years. Consistency is a very good thing, especially when the situation is good. Times are a changin’ – Ben will need to shrug off the ill feelings of Arians getting the boot and find a happy place with his union of OC and QB.
The transition Ben experienced from Ken Whisenhunt to Bruce Arians was a very easy one. Arians was already the receivers coach, and most of his schemes were already intermixed with Whisenhunt’s play calling. There was a comradery already there when Arians stepped up to take over the offense. And why wouldn’t he be? The pass heavy Arians was a dream for a young QB. Ben’s pass attempts increased overall season to season. The offense got revamped for quickness and good hands over brute size and hard nosed. For every critic of Arians, Ben was right there to defend his OC. It was a happy marriage from the very start and continued for the next four seasons.
The Steelers have some choices internally for the OC job – Randy Fichtner, Sean Kugler and Kirby Wilson. It’s strange how the football universe can be cruel. Kirby, probably the best internal candidate for the Steelers, is so traumatically injured from a house fire that he may not retain his job as the running back coach let alone be well enough to become the new coordinator. Kugler really hasn’t been with the team long enough and quite frankly the performance of the offensive line (or lack thereof) really doesn’t make him that great of a candidate in my book. Sure he did what he could with injuries – but even at full strength, the line was riddled with poor execution and penalties. That leaves us with Fichtner, QB coach and former WR coach for the Steelers. And while I like Fichtner because of his ability to quickly develop young receivers like Holmes and Wallace, I fear that Fichtner at the helm will provide us with the same results as we had with Arains.
Some of you might be saying – ‘But wasn’t the Red Zone efficiency the biggest problem with Arians?’ Truth. But remember that this booting of Arians came from the top. And the top, wanted the team to run the ball more. Would Fichtner be able to facilitate that requirement from the Steelers team president? No idea.
I think the reality of the situation is that the Steelers will be hiring outside of the organization. That will be a big adjustment for Roethlisberger. And, it will force him to show us how good he really has become. I’m pretty sure, as is the way of offensive coordinators, that the new guy will change up the scheme for better or for worse. He will make it his own. I’m sure he will take input from Tomlin and from Ben on what is really working for them and what will help them manage the game from the sidelines and on the field. But the bottom line is that this coordinator will be tasked with focusing on running and ball control. These are things Ben hasn’t been accustomed to since his first couple seasons under the Whiz. Ben’s developed into his own QB and his own style of playing. This new coordinator will test that development. He may be passing less frequently, meaning each throw will have to count that much more. He will have less opportunities to find a groove. Pretty much, the pressure is on his balling skills. The new coordinator will also be a test of his patience – especially if the no huddle and on the field play calling is off the table with the new coordinator.
So we know for sure that the newbie will be a test of skill and patience for our veteran QB. We can only hope that this transition and new union of QB and OC will be a smooth one. Some feel that this was a bad move because Tomlin stressed the importance of consistency with the coaching staff. But I think this is a golden opportunity to catapult this offense to a new level of being a juggernaut. And that doesn’t necessarily translate into huge amounts of points. The team is in a beginning period of getting rid of the old and acquiring and developing the new. A new coordinator may be the keystone in keeping it all together as the team tries to adjust to the cap and re-acquire their identity as an offense.