November 21, 2007

This Wednesday's PSA Brought To You By Bruce Arians...

"You always open yourself up for criticism and evaluation when you are unsuccessful. We don’t worry about that element of it. We focus on winning, because when you win you don’t have those questions."
Ok, we've had a couple of days now to rid ourselves of some of the sting from Sunday's embarrassment. Hopefully everyone has begun to put it behind them and focus their attention on Monday's game against Miami. But whether you have or not, I've got a hot button issue I'd like to discuss with you all this morning - Bruce Arians. Specifically, I've noticed a lot of buzz this season, mostly after the three losses (can't imagine why), suggesting that when things go wrong, it's all Bruce Arians' fault...So what I'm trying to figure out is - is this true?

CAVEAT: Let me make sure I say this upfront - I personally am not sold on Arians as this teams "Offensive Guru." Nonetheless, I'm hesitant to blame all of the offensive woes on him, for reasons I will discuss below...

In terms of offensive play calling, Arians is certainly the natural person to blame. And from a broader perspective, everyone wants to hold someone culpable when things go wrong, so who better than a guy who is not the untouchable Head Coach, nor Pittsburgh's defensive darling Dick LeBeau? But are we blaming him more because we NEED someone to blame? Or because he legitimately made all the wrong decisions?

Let's talk about one of the grossly understated positives that Arians offers - his rapport with Big Ben. After The Whis left it became abundantly clear to all of us that he and Big Ben had not exactly been famous friends. From what I gathered, Ben didn't appreciate being dictated to and thought he should have had more of a say in what plays did/did not get called. So in this vein, as soon as Arians took over back in May, he told Ben - "This is not my offense. From now on this is your offense."

Accordingly, under Arians, Ben now participates fully in the game planning, attending sessions on Mondays and Tuesdays and is encouraged to tweak the plans as he sees fit. A copy of the final draft is even faxed to Ben's house on Tuesday evenings. This all has helped amount to a great dynamic between the two, which in my opinion is essential to the team's success. Even more importantly though, it has vaulted Big Ben into a position as leader of the team. With The Bus and Peezy gone, the only voice left in the locker room is Ben's, which in turn makes him more responsible for how the team fares. And it's showing...

Also, Arians is a former QB (Virginia Tech), and was Peyton Manning's 1st NFL QB coach in Indy from '98-'00. So his knowledge of the position and how to approach coaching it is relatively credible. Of course, on the flipside - more recently he was responsible for holding the Cleveland Browns offensive reins from '01-'03 before joining the Steelers, a job which could certainly be picked out as evidence of his inadequacy. Especially considering he was FIRED after two seasons...But really, what Offensive Coordinator could have been successful with Tim Couch (and no one else)?

Overall, Arians' approach with Big Ben has clearly helped the young QB mature. Through 10 games, Ben has already eclipsed most of the numbers he put up in his 1st three seasons - tossing the rock for 2215 yards, 23 TDs, and holding the 2nd spot in the league in terms of QB rating (behind only Tom Brady). So I don't know that any of us have much room to complain about Arians' impact on Ben and the Offense in the grand scheme.

One could definitely point to Ben and the receivers (as some of the best and brightest in Steelers blogging have - See Related Reads) for some of the sacks suffered against the Jets Sunday, but to be completely honest, I think the miserable Offensive Line should be brought to bear the brunt of our overarching frustrations. They consistently let even the worst of Defenses get to Big Ben, and in fact have allowed him to be sacked 30 times and hurried innumerably more. I've mentioned the sack factor before, but let me reiterate again - after Sunday's 7 Jet sack extravaganza, only one QB in the league has been knocked down more - Jon Kitna in Detroit (who only has 13 TDs, but 11 INTs). In fact, half of that 30 total came solely from three games - Arizona (4), Denver (4), and the Jets (7). This has become such a detriment that Tomlin has even made it the #1 priority for improvement. Bottom line - It's tough to be effective either running or throwing the football when you have no blocking or protection. Maybe if our Offensive Line Coach spent more time coaching and less time watching/forwarding internet porn, we could show some progress in this area...just saying.

So what do you all think? Is Arians doing an ok job? Should we be worried about his viability long term? Is he helping improve the offense or impeding our success? Love to hear your thoughts...

PS - I know it's extremely hard to see, but that poster above reads:
"Remember, a good defense is essential to winning in football. The same is true when it comes to preventing unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases."
Bruce Arians is so publicly conscious.

Sacks Leave Steelers Offense Sunk [Fanhouse]
Can the Steelers protect their quarterback? [Post-Gazette]
Can Faneca Help This Struggling Offensive Line? [Behind The Steel Curtain]
Offensive Line and Special Teams Amount to Fatal Flaws [DC Steeler Nation]
What We Learned, Jets [NFL From The Sidelines]

Ballhype: hype it up!


Jason said...

I'd like to say that we'd have a good read on Arians by this point, but we don't. He started out pretty well, but has slowed down a bit. I think it is just going to take some more time, and probably a whole season's worth of evidence to reflect on.

I do agree with you that he has done a lot with helping Ben, and that is huge.

Tobiathan said...

So far i like most of what i've seen from Arians. He definitely puts the ball downfeild a helluva lot more than i ever remember Pittsburgh doing, and i like that. He's bringing more 21st century-style offense to the team.

On the other hand, his run game seems to be non-committal at it's best and totally lacking in the sense of overwhelming domination on the ground. Maybe it's the result of O-line problems, maybe not.

As i watch more Steeler football i become more convinced that Arians considers the running game a secondary consideration to putting the ball in the air. That would be fine if he was willing and able to execute the short- and swing-pass game to replace a stalwart run game, but i have yet to see that consistently. I'm not at all sure why.

The O-lines trouble,IMHO, is stemming from our failure to impart our will on opposing defenses early in games by running the ball down their throats. That's what this offensive line was created to do, and they're never given the chance to establish early in the game so far this year. Because of that they never have defenders frustrated, exhausted and panicking they way they used to. That's allowing opponents D's to actually execute a gameplan instead of trying to shut down the Pittsburgh run game.

Cowher was doing a lot more right than most people seem to realize. When opponents defenses were beaten in the run game early it screwed up their confidence and made them ALWAYS have to play the run first, before rusjing the passer. In this new offense of ours we haven't forced the run enough to make the enemy do that, so they've just pinned their ears back and kilt Ben all day. Until we willfully and dominatingly establish the run early in every game we're gonna struggle. Especially since the O-line here in the Burgh is already on it's heels and getting flack i'm not sure they deserve. They WANT to be dominant run-blockers, but aren't being allowed to. Instead Arians is trying to force-fit them into pass-blockers, which most of them do not excel at.

In time, and with the draft/free-agency, i think we will develop the League's best offense. /But not until we re-learn to impose OUR running game early and often. Once those opposing Dee's HAVE to play run-first again we'll start seeing more Steeler offensive production.

And that's what I think.


Go (back to the run!) Stillers!

Cotter said...

And what was the knock on Cowher in recent years? Too much run, bring the Offense into the 21st can't really complain now that we have done that.

Still, like you guys said, I think 10 games is hardly enough to know what a guy is capable of in the longer term. I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully he'll help us finish strong and make a playoff run.

T - I agree that the running game is suffering, though I'm not sure Arians is not committed to the run. I think the Denver game for sure that was true, but overall he's tried. In terms of the Jet game, Willie had holes, he just wasn't hitting them.

Anyways, I think my message with the post was don't shit on a guy who's already improved the offense over years past in only 10 games. Plus, I am a firm believer in strong relationships within a team affecting the overall performance. The better the rapport between Ben and Arians, the better the offense.

Turkey makes me tired...

Tobiathan said...

I'm not knocking Big Brucey either. I like the aerial game much better this season(although the whole Holmes injury creeps me). We NEED a deep game fo sho.

My main point was that i get the impression that Arians isn't giving the O-line the time and persistent play-calling it needs to really stuff the ground game down opposing throats.

Granted, maybe we don't have such a great O-line, but i don't believe that. I think it's somewhere in the whole offensive mentality...

Something is missing. Is it Russ Grimm? Is it Cowhwer? Is it Big Red's contract and/or Simmons getting lazy now that he's paid? I dunno.

Just something needs to get hype fast with that gang.

I want to say something:

In light of the Patritw*ats performance this year(ya know: pushing off, never getting penalized, not allowed to actually HIT Brady etc...) I think alll us in SteelerNation are being a little uptight. The Stillers are doing well, and will do better.

All the media seems to forget that the Jets had nothing to lose last Sunday. Zero pressure. And they were gonna be praised no matter what, unless we blew them out Belic*nt style. On the other hand, the Steelers are adjusting to a lot of changes, under A LOT of scrutiny and pressure, and had EVERYTHING to lose in that game.

Even though we lost, i think it will strengthen us in the Long Run to Playoff-land. We're still a lock for the division IMHO.