BEREA — .Bruce Arians is a quarterback’s coordinator. Makes sense.
Long before Arians was calling plays for the Cleveland Browns and then the Pittsburgh Steelers, he played quarterback at Virginia Tech. As the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis, Arians worked with a young Peyton Manning.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who sparred with the team’s previous coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, has no complaints with Arians.
“I’m glad the Browns got rid of him so we could get him,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday.
Arians’ best day with the Browns might have been the 36-33 playoff game at Pittsburgh in January 2003. Or it could have been a 33-13 Sunday night winner over Pittsburgh in October 2003.
On Dec. 28, 2003, Arians stood in a Paul Brown Stadium locker room, hoping against hope that a 22-14 win over Cincinnati would save his job.
He was fired the next day.
Bill Cowher hired him three weeks later. After two years as wide receivers coach, Arians replaced Whisenhunt as coordinator in 2007.
“I’ve been blessed to have him,” Roethlisberger said. “We work well together.
“I don’t think he views his role or his job as telling me what to do. We both look at each other in terms of helping each other. He’s made me a lot better quarterback.”
Arians took over Pittsburgh’s offense when Whisenhunt, a former NFL tight end, became head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Mike Tomlin, whose background is on defense, became Arians’ new boss.
“Our relationship has been awesome,” Tomlin said. “Bruce has done an awesome job using talent, spreading the ball around.
“The issue for us is winning, as it is for Bruce. That’s why our relationship has been so great. It’s never about stats.”
Roethlisberger’s stats are off the charts. He is on pace to top 4,700 passing yards. In five previous years as the starter, his passing totals have been 2,621, 2,385, 3,513, 3,154 and 3,301.
Through five games, Roethlisberger trails only Manning, 1,645 yards to 1,470. Roethlisberger’s passer rating is 102.6, close to the career-best 104.1 he posted the year Arians became his coordinator.
It’s a matter of trust. The best example of that materialized after Sunday’s game at Detroit got hairy.
Roethlisberger had just thrown a pick-6 to Detroit’s William James, cutting a first-half lead to 14-13.
Wearing a strange smile as he walked off the field after the interception, Roethlisberger went straight to Arians. He basically asked if he could call the plays on the next series, running a no-huddle.
Arians said yes. Tomlin said yes.
Roethlisberger deduced that the Lions couldn’t cover Heath Miller, hitting the tight end with three passes covering 30 yards. He was 4-for-4 on the drive after throwing a 17-yard touchdown strike to Hines Ward.
Roethlisberger is ruthless when the Steelers get inside the 20, delivering touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s last eight red-zone possessions.
His completion percentage is a league-best 73.8. Only he and Manning are in the 70s.
“I’m not satisfied,” he said. “I don’t think I’m playing well.”
What happens if Arians really figures out how to use him?