Bruce Arians’ time as offensive coordinator for the Steelers was filled with exciting plays and baffling ones. And it’s those baffling plays that made Arians a frequent target of angry Steelers fans.
The Steelers announced today that Arians will be retiring. That means that Steelers fans won’t be able to blame Arians for the team’s losses anymore.
Arians’ days as offensive coordinator were a mixed bag. He will always be remembered as the guy who unleashed Ben Roethlisberger. Prior to Arians, Roethlisberger had been seen as more of a “game manager” than a franchise quarterback. Bill Cowher and Ken Whisenhunt consciously worked to keep Big Ben’s pass attempts low.
But when Bruce Arians took over, he let Roethlisberger throw the ball early and often. Roethlisberger broke most Steelers passing records, and his passing also led to the emergence of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, and Emmanuel Sanders.
But on the flip side, Arians seemed to eschew the running game. He often called for pass plays when a running play would have been a safer option. And when he did call for running plays, they were usually predictable, and almost always to the right side of the field. If fans at home were able to predict where the ball was going, then the defense probably could too.
But perhaps the worst aspect of Arians’ play calling was his success (or lack thereof) in the red zone. Arians’ offense seemed to be highly effective over most of the field, but once the Steelers got inside the 20 yard line, the offense came to a screeching halt. Arians seemed to be content to settle for field goals when touchdowns should have been the goal.
This practice was particularly egregious to Steelers fans who had grown up watching Jerome Bettis successfully get the tough yards. Fans couldn’t understand why the team often struggled to gain one yard, and then inevitably settle for a field goal.
After each of the past two seasons, the Rooney family has said that they wanted to see Arians (and Tomlin) re-emphasize the running game and improve the team’s effectiveness within the red zone. And repeatedly the Steelers failed to do so. So while this is being called a “retirement”, some believe that the Rooneys may have encouraged Arians to retire. Even Ed Bouchette, the Steelers beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggested as much.
So while we’ll probably never know whether Arians’ retirement was completely voluntary, we do know that the Steelers will have a new offensive coordinator next season.
The off-season just got even more interesting.