By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
January 23, 2012
Is Art Rooney II qualified to run a football team in any way that goes beyond his birthright?
That doesn’t matter. The birthright does.
That truth was held to be self-evident this past week as the Steelers president, after doing a round of media self-promotion, decided to use his thunderbolts to smite Bruce Arians, relieving the offensive coordinator of his duties.
The Steelers say Arians retired. That’s a lie. The Steelers decided to not renew his contract.
Head coach Mike Tomlin wanted Arians back, having reportedly told him that since the playoff loss at Denver. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is an Arians supporter and friend, having saved his job two years ago, and is said to be miffed that Arians got dismissed. Can’t wait to hear what Roethlisberger has to say at the Pro Bowl (where Arians and his wife will be Ben’s guest).
So, who’s left? General Manager Kevin Colbert? Colbert wouldn’t overrule Tomlin in this situation.
It looks like Rooney, after saying it was “Mike’s decision,” dropped the guillotine.
The Steelers’ red-zone efficiency was dismal at Denver, leaving lots of points on the table in the first quarter. But the Steelers’ defense was pathetic all day, adjusting not one bit as Tim Tebow carved them to ribbons. Arians is the scapegoat. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is Teflon.
Looking at the regular season, the Steelers were 12th in the NFL in yards gained, just 21st in points. Not a good contrast. But the Steelers’ offense was doubtless hurt by a defense that collected just 15 takeaways, fewest in the league. The offense didn’t get many short fields, or easy points.
Receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown each caught over 1,000 yards worth of passes. Roethlisberger threw for over 4,000. The Steelers sent four offensive players to Pro Bowl. That hadn’t happened since 2004.
You can’t knock the running game, either: It averaged 4.4 yards per carry, the best mark since 2001.
Looking at Arians’ five-year tenure, his offense helped the Steelers get to two Super Bowls, winning one. His successor will not have done that, or do that. Guaranteed.
Arians hasn’t always had the best players to work with, particularly on the line. When it comes to excellence, the Steelers spend on defense first. You can’t cook gourmet meals when half your ingredients are from 7-11. All things considered, Arians did fine. Overachieved, even.
So why was Arians fired? For a few debatable play calls? Why not fire Tomlin for consistently poor clock management? Or LeBeau for the debacle at Denver?
Or why not leave pretty good alone? An early playoff exit aside, 12-4 is an excellent season.
This is bizarre. This seems like a decision made by a talk-show caller. Knee-jerk. Hasty. Against the grain.
In 2010, Rooney said that he wanted the Steelers to run more. This season, they ran on 43 percent of their offensive snaps. Is that enough? Arians is the man who minimized Steelers’ icon Hines Ward. Perhaps that didn’t sit well with upper management. Word is the Steelers may bring back Aaron Smith despite injuries that sidelined him for most of the last three seasons. Tradition counts.
Maybe it counts too much.
Maybe Rooney wants to pay Roethlisberger $102 million to hand off more.
Maybe Rooney wants to pound the ball on the ground, just like granddaddy’s team. According to ESPN.com, sources say Arians was canned with an eye toward shifting “the offense back toward its blue-collar identity of years past, in line with the desires of Steelers president Art Rooney II.”
Anybody got Jerome Bettis’ number?
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).