Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette created a mini firestorm of sorts this week when he reported that Bruce Arians, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator is unlikely to return. We now know this is fact as the team announced that Arians has indeed retired from coaching. The official statement from the teams website reads as follows:
Bruce Arians has informed me that he will retire from coaching. I appreciate his efforts over the past five years as the team’s offensive coordinator and for helping lead our offense to new heights during his time with the Steelers. I am grateful to Bruce for contributing to our success and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.
Some are speculating that this may not have been 100% Arians’ choosing and that perhaps Art Rooney II had a very strong hand in pushing Arians out the door. True or not, the fact is, the Steelers will have someone new calling plays and the question is certainly who but it comes with a caveat. Can they keep Ben Roethlisberger happy?
Any Steeler fan with half a brain will tell you that job number one for any offensive coordinator is keeping Ben happy. This is why Ben worked his tail off to talk Arians out of retiring last season. Ben is comfortable with Arians for numerous reasons. Chief among them is that Arians had tailored the playbook and frankly, the entire offense to the liking of number seven. What coordinator wouldn’t create an offense that best fits his QB? The problem is that a coach or coordinator can sometimes forget that he is just that, a coach. While I like that Bruce and Ben are apparently buddies I also believe there has to be a professional relationship in which the coach can actually ‘coach’ his quarterback. I don’t believe there has been a lot of that with Ben and there are times when he needs someone to kick him in the pants but it wasn’t going to be Bruce Arians.
Many believe the Steelers will temper any hostility Ben may have towards the retirement of Arians by promoting Quarterbacks Coach Randy Fichtner, which we wrote about here a few days ago. Fichtner is seen by some as nothing more than ‘Arians Lite’ and if that is the case, will anything really change? By all accounts, Fichtner has a good relationship with Ben and the receiving corps. At this point in Ben’s career, does Mike Tomlin want to shake up the apple cart significantly? If he does, then this retirement by Arians could send shockwaves throughout the Steelers’ locker room and most notably with the star QB.
The one ‘outsider’ name I believe you will hear most often is that of former Colts’ Head Coach Jim Caldwell. He is an offensive-minded guy who has coached Peyton Manning and more importantly, he comes from the Tony Dungy coaching tree as does Mike Tomlin. Might sound like a reach, but I wouldn’t call it impossible by any stretch.
Whoever comes in the run the Black ‘n Gold offense must improve the squad in areas where Arians failed. Red Zone offense and the ability to make in-game adjustments. You can say players are at fault for lack of execution and I couldn’t really argue, but who is responsible for them executing properly? It comes back to the coach and it goes to exactly what I am saying about Arians and Roethlisberger. It’s OK to have a great relationship with your coach, but if the coach loses the ability to actually ‘coach, instruct and mentor’ then execution failures will happen.
In the coming days, this could get really interesting. The bottom line for Fichtner or Caldwell or whoever it might be is that they should know the Nation they have to impress is not easily amused. Running the offense in Pittsburgh might be more difficult than being married to Kim Kardashian. Good luck whoever you are and be careful with those wide receiver screens.
Marc Uhlmann is a writer, contributor and podcast co-host for www.steeleraddicts.com appears on Trib Live Radio weekly during the season. Follow him on Twitter @SteelDad.