Before reading this article, please read our Steelers-Chargers post-game analysis found here.
This website has been critical of Steelers’ Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians for most of the season. In our opinion, Arians has failed to make in-game adjustments to counter the constant blitz schemes that the Steelers have faced. As team after team followed the same script when playing the Steelers, Arians seemed to stubbornly refuse to implement the quick passes that are the obvious counter-attack to constant blitzing. In the game earlier this year against the Philadelphia Eagles, Arians didn’t implement this strategy even after the Eagles’ 50th blitz and sack of Ben Roethlisberger (I believe the Eagles sacked Roethlisberger 700 times during that game, but I could be mistaken). We, along with most Steelers fans, were shocked when the Steelers came out in the second half of that game, and showed no sign of offensive adjustments of any type.
With this as background, we felt compelled to give Arians kudos for a job well done. In the Steelers’ odd 11-10 win over the San Diego Chargers, it was really Bruce Arians who was the hero of the game.
Some fans may ask, “how was Arians the hero of a game in which Ben Roethlisberger passed for 308 yards, Willie Parker ran for 115 yards, and Hines Ward had 124 yards receiving”? Well, the answer is simple. Bruce Arians called a nearly perfect game, and he is the reason that each of the above players had the exceptional performance that they did.
In the passing game, Arians had Roethlisberger executing the quick slant pass as effectively as I’ve seen any quarterback execute it. It is that particular play that is the bread and butter play for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. In fact, the Patriots use that play as a defacto running game.
Rothlisberger repeatedly got rid of the ball quickly in the face of a Chargers’ blitz. Usually, the recipient of those quick passes were Santonio Holmes or Matt Spaeth. In fact, it was this strategy which was responsible for Spaeth catching 6 passes during the game. Steelers Today has always believed that Arians under-utilizes the tight end, we were pleasantly surprised to see Spaeth play such an active role in the offense.
Arians called a diverse game that resulted in Big Ben completing passes to 7 different receivers. That is a very rare statistic for the Steelers offense.
Besides calling a brilliant passing game, Arians also used the running game to eat up the clock and to wear down the Chargers’ defense. Willie Parker’s 115 yards, and the Steelers 36:31minute – 23:29 minute time of possession advantage, is proof of this fact.
Arians also showed a willingness to keep experimenting until he found something that worked. Early in the game, he had Willie Parker attempt to gain short yardage, only to watch him get stuffed. Mewelde Moore met with the same fate. So Arians gave little-used running back Gary Russell an opportunity on third down. Not only did Russell gain the needed yardage, but when called upon to do it again later in the game, Russell did it again. By showing flexibility, Arians may have found a new third down back. Moreover, he has found a way to give valuable playing time to a back who has shown potential, but has been given few chances to prove himself.
The Steelers offense failed to get into the endzone. But that does not mean that they weren’t dominant. Bruce Arians called a near-perfect game, and the offense dominated the Chargers to a much greater degree than was reflected on the scoreboard.
Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, Matt Spaeth, Troy Polamalu, and James Harrison all had excellent games on Sunday. But in our opinion, the game ball for this win goes to Bruce Arians. Way to go, Bruce!
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