By Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
January 19, 2012
Last week when I saw Bruce Arians at Steelers headquarters, I asked if he'd be back in 2012.
"Yeah, I'll be back," he said.
But as it turns out, it doesn't look like he will return. There's growing speculation that Arians is being forced out. His five-year run as offensive coordinator is all but officially over.
Word is that either team president Art Rooney or coach Mike Tomlin - or perhaps both - have told Arians he must resign or be fired.
So it appears that all those Arians critics, and there sure are plenty of them, will get their wish. That won't have B.A. to bash any more.
If indeed Arians is done, it will be interesting to see Ben Roethlisberger's reaction.
They are very close friends. They golf together. They play cards together. They even own homes in the same golf course community near Atlanta, Ga. They are so close that Roethlisberger is taking Arians and his wife Christine to Hawaii next week for the Pro Bowl.
To be sure, there have been some prolific offensive performances under Arians' watch.
Roethlisberger set franchise records with 32 touchdown passes and a 104.1 passer rating in 2007 and 4,328 passing yards in 2008.
Willie Parker led the NFL in rushing in 2007 before breaking his leg in the 15th game of the season.
Rashard Mendenhall's 1,273 yards in 2010 rank fifth on the team's all-time rushing list.
Twice under Arians, the Steelers had a pair of wideouts who both racked over 1,000 yards in receiving yards (Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes in '09, and Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown this season).
And don't forget that the Steelers did play in the Super Bowl twice in the past four years and won one of them.
However, the Steelers have never been an dynamic high-scoring offensive machine under Arians.
Only once under Arians have the Steelers ranked in the top 10 in total offense (No. 9 in 2009). Only once have the Steelers ranked in the top 10 in scoring offense (tied for ninth in 2007).
And this year, the Steelers only averaged 20.3 points per game. That's their lowest point production since 2003 when they averaged 18.8.
Granted, the Steelers seem to always had issues on the offensive line. That certainly was the case again this season. But ultimately, the coach is man who's most accountable.
That's why someone with authority is forcing Arians out. Either Rooney or Tomlin or both want more from the offense.
Arians, who's 59 and a prostate cancer survivor, did consider retirement a year ago. But he was talked out of it by Roethlisberger.
Last February, Arians didn't even join Tomlin and the other Steeler coaches in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine as he spent time deciding whether or not to return for the 2011 season.
This year, it appears he has no say in the matter.
Mike Bires can be reached online at email@example.com or by phone at 724-622-4284
Steelers' NFL offensive rankings under Bruce Arians
2007=17th=tie 9th (24.6 ppg)
2008=22nd=20th (21.7 ppg)
2009=7th=12th (23.0 ppg)
2010=14th=12th (23.4 ppg)
2011=12th=21st (20.3 ppg)