Prior to the start of the 2009, in true homer fashion, I had projected the Steelers to win Superbowl XLIV. Okay, I’ll admit, I’m not a complete homer. As much as I would love to see the Steelers make the Superbowl year in and year out, I also know that’s not always a possibility. When Tommy Maddox went down in 2004, a year after the Steelers finished 6-10, I expected another losing season under a rookie quarterback (see, I’m not always right about the Steelers).
My reason for the projection though really wasn’t out of homerism (though my fantasy football picks were), just more out of logic. And I’m sure that many non-Steelers fans agreed that if there was a team at the time that was perfectly poised for a back to back, it was the 09 Steelers. Limited turnover in personnel, the strength of talent on this current Steelers roster and their 09 schedule had them perfectly poised to do it. Unfortunately my predictions fell short, sort of like the Steelers season.
Going into the post-season, while 12 teams are preparing for their run at the Lombardi Trophy, Steelers join 19 other teams in determining where to go next year. National media and analysts will be focused on the playoffs and the coaching carousel throughout the NFL. Pittsburgh media and many Steelers fans, including myself, will be watching and talking about what transpires within the black and gold organization for the next few weeks. Continuing to try to figure out what went wrong and why, it’ll be a topic discussed on message boards and in analysts columns both in the Pittsburgh and national media as they break down the end of various teams seasons. CBS Sports writer, Pete Prisco believes that the Steelers defense needs a lot of help as he mentioned in his final regular power rankings and NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks broke down the Steelers in his column. And now, after the retirement of Ken Anderson as the Steelers quarterback coach yesterday, we’re waiting with baited breath to see the fate of Bruce Arians.
In the first part of “If Only”, I tended to regurgitated responses to what the media had speculated on the demise of a defense that the previous season was no less then a shut down defense, both against the run and the pass. It was that defense, along with a clutch quarterback and some very good receivers that propelled the Steelers through the playoffs and into the Superbowl. It’s a given that members of the media and fans of Pittsburgh legendary franchise would try to find reasons as to why. (Yes, yes, I know that I’m repeating myself).
Now I’ll admit, myself, I’m far from being an expert at the game. I’ve never taken a snap, blocked a defensive lineman or even kicked a field goal. I was never a football mom, heck, I wasn’t even a pom pom waiving cheerleader, just a fan. But I can say, I’ve been watching the games enough, to be certain of at least some things.
- Steeler management needs to put a clause in all players contracts that they will never, ever, appear in a Campbell’s Chunky Soup commercial (see 2006 when Ben Roethlisberger was suppose to be the Chunky Soup commercial and the team went 8-8 that season), appear on a Madden whatever box and not to appear on an Sports Illustrated cover (unless of course, it’s their swimsuit addition and they’re not in uniform). Okay the SI cover may be a stretch, but why tempt fate?
- Every Steelers fan needs to keep a bottle of Bayer aspirin close by, just in case. Terry O’Neil knows what watching a Steelers game can do to the heart. He’s the fan who made national headlines in 06 for suffering a heart attack after Jerome Bettis fumbled the ball at the goal line in the Steelers/Colts playoff game. I’m right with Terry there on this one. I think the Denver game was the only game this year that I didn’t have my heart in my throat in the fourth quarter.
- Steelers fans can be extremely passionate and loyal, can be rabid, are extremely spoiled and as a collective, the Steelers Nation can sometimes be bi-polar. I’ll address this one later, but when some fans start wanting to burn in effigy a coach who has gone to the playoffs twice, winning a Superbowl, and barely missed the playoffs without a losing season only after three seasons in that position. Or announce on players facebook pages that the loss against Cleveland made them embarrassed to be a Steelers fan, I just have to shake my head. Sometimes I think we can take lessons from Lions, Saints, Browns and even Bengals fans.
- Not to bite into the media hype or the drama. We’ve heard twice about issues between Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger. After the 2007 season when the press reported that Ben wanted a tall wide receiver and Ward took exception to it. Yep, there was a rift there, so much so that the Steelers went on to the Superbowl. Ward would catch 81 times for 1,043 yards and 7 touchdowns. And after his comments about Ben’s concussion, yep, a real drop statistically in those games. Yep, the Steelers had a big McNabb/TO controversy going there…NOT.
- That stats always don’t paint the full picture. A team with a top five overall defense, with an offense that has a quarterback that has thrown for 4000 yards and a quarterback completion rating of 100.5, with two 1000+ yards receivers PLUS a 1,000 yard running back should be in the playoffs, right?
- And yes, despite what Pittsburgh Post Gazette writer Ron Cook might believe (1), Bruce Arians needs to go. In his column today, Cook points to the stats this season as reason why the calls for Arians head is unjustified. Though I may agree with Cook on the Steelers need to keep the idea of the high powered passing offense in place, I disagree that Arians is the man to do this. High powered passing offenses that can make it to and win the Superbowl utilize their weapons effectively. Arians has all the talent needed for a pick your poison offense, but has shown he’s more of a Mr. Hyde then Dr. Jekyll in his Jekyll and Hyde play calling.
Let’s face it, the Steelers do have a running game. Rashard Mendenhall running for 1000 yards rushing for the season. They have an explosive pass attack if used effectively, 2 1000+ yard receivers and a rookie deep threat by the name of Mike Wallace proved that. The game against the Chargers earlier in the season showed how deadly that poison can be when mixed properly. 333 yards passing for 2 TDs and a running back that ran for 165 yards and 2 TDs, not to mention a 6 yard pass by Mewelde Moore for another, made any attempt at a come from behind win a Philip Rivers led offense kind of a pipe dream. Now take the same offense in the Packers/Steelers game. 503 yards passing by the Steelers and yet the Steelers needed a last minute touchdown to win that game. Three touch downs in the first half compared to three field goals in the second.
This is why I believe Arians needs to go. Despite what the stats say, Arians more often then not seems to have no answers for the 3d and goals. Think Arians is evolving Ron? Look at his play calling against the Eagles in the 2008 season. Despite being eaten alive by the Eagles defense, Arians offered very little solution except keeping Ben behind center and running, running and then pass. Easily read by the defense Bruce. How many sacks did Ben take this season? What did Arians do when the line seemed overwhelmed? Yeah, sometimes he’d let Ben run no huddle or muddled huddle, other times, Arians seemed to have no answers except…you guessed it, the deep ball.
No Ron, my reasoning for wanting Arians gone has nothing to do with wanting to revert back to power run first philosophy of old. I just believe that he has issues using his resources correctly.
If only he had more games like they did in Denver and against San Diego, continuing to play to win in the 2nd half rather then trying to sit on the lead offensively as we’ve seen in many game by eating the clock and field. (Especially in the 4th quarter in the first Cincinnati game). Want wow Bruce…the Denver game was just that, both offensively and defensively. Why not go for something like that in every game…nevermind, I’m sure he has.
If only his play calling wasn’t so predictable a lot of the time, especially in the 2nd half. How often have we watched the offense telegraph the plays only to result in Ben being sacked?
If only he wouldn’t get conservative when he should be aggressive and shouldn’t get aggressive when it calls for him to be conservative.
If only his play calling seemed to be more situational rather then scripted. Not that it doesn’t happen but once it works, he reverts back to the script he laid out.
If only he hadn’t opted to pass twice as often as running in a game where the winds were 60 mph or where the rush defense of the opponent was suspect and the run was actually working. Or if he adjusted his play calling sooner or didn’t wait for two minutes to go no huddle when the oline and Ben are taking a beating.
If only there weren’t so many reasons as to why we lack confidence in him, perhaps Ron, we the fans wouldn’t be calling for his head year in and year out.
Ron, and here’s probably the biggest reason I believe that Arians should no longer be in Pittsburgh. For three years Ron, the Steelers offense has struggled on 3d and short. For two of those years they were brushed off due to injuries, or young running backs or issues with the oline. Ron, this year the Steelers have a quarterback that has thrown for 4000+ yards in a season. Ron, this year the Steelers have two wide receivers who’ve caught for 1,000 + yds. Ron, this year the Steelers have a deep fast threat in the way of Mike Wallace. Ron, this year the Steelers have a running back who has ran for over 1,000 yds. Ron, yet, still in three years, more often then not, the Steelers are kicking field goals instead of converting the 3d and goals to touchdowns.
If only Bruce Arians had the answer to this problem, then there’d be less of a call for his head…if only…
(1): Making Arians a Scapegoat is Unwarranted, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Wednesday 1/6/10