Who Replaces Arians if He Leaves Pittsburgh?

We’re filing this under “Be careful what you ask for,” right above “Don’t worry, Tommy Maddox will turn the Steelers into an awesome passing offense” and “Chad Scott and DeWayne Washington always play much better than they practice.”

Gerry Dulac reported Wednesday night that Bruce Arians might not be back with the Steelers in 2012.

Whether that’s his choice or someone else’s, the point remains: for the first time in Mike Tomlin’s tenure, there could be somebody other than BA calling plays. I know that makes some of you happy. For others, like me, much less so.

We can all agree that BA wasn’t perfect; the differences in opinions come when we try to decide how important he was to the Steelers’ offensive success from 2007-2011. The team went to two Super Bowls, winning once, and according to Football Outsiders, the offense finished ninth or better in four of five seasons:

2007: 9th overall (7th pass, 18th run)
2008: 21st (19th, 15th)
2009: 7th (7th, 17th)
2010: 5th (3rd, 14th)
2011: 6th (7th, 7th)

Yes, Pittsburgh struggled in the red zone (it’s not a secret — Arians has admitted as much), but it’s not like we’re talking about Brian Schottenheimer or Mike Mularkey (most recently of the Falcons although he parlayed a two-point playoff effort into the Jags’ head coaching gig).

Arians didn’t try to fit Ben Roethlisberger’s style into his vision of an NFL offense. Just the opposite. This was Ben’s offense, although I’d agree that the Steelers didn’t run enough no-huddle. Roethlisberger was especially dangerous when he called the plays at the line of scrimmage but whether it was the lockout, inexperienced pass catchers, a porous offensive line or a hobbled quarterback, Arians always seemed to have an excuse why he wasn’t keen on giving Ben the reins. Except that when it did happen, the results were pretty good.

But now what?

I was all set to write about all the names and faces who might not be back in Latrobe in August (and I will) but here’s the other reality: Arians might have coached his last game, too. I know some of you welcome this news but unlike the other side of the ball where it appears that Keith Butler will assume Dick LeBeau’s defensive coordinator duties once that days comes, I have no clue who’ll replace Arians.

Here’s a look at the current coaching staff and there are Butlers or Mitchells on the offensive side of the ball.   Is Randy Fitchner capable? No idea. I know BA recommended him earlier this year for the Memphis University job.

My biggest fear is that the Steelers end up with ‘Lil Schottenheimer (he’s allegedly headed to the Rams), wholly loathed in New York before he finally had the good sense to move on to … anywhere but New York. Or more generally, someone like Schottenheimer — big reputation but lacking in results. More than that: someone who’d want to run their offense, not Ben’s offense. I can’t imagine it would get to that point in the interview process but what the hell do I know?

I hope Arians returns. If he doesn’t, who are the candidates to replace him? (This isn’t rhetorical or snarky. I really am interested in your thoughts.) For completely selfish reasons, it’s too bad Chan Gailey didn’t get fired in Buffalo. I’d welcome him back to Pittsburgh.

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  • http://twitter.com/mwk89 Matthew Kitson

    Hue Jackson

  • Rob D

    Arians is probably in his last year with the team anyway. He’s made a lot of noises about retiring the last 2 years and perhaps he’s ready. I have no idea who would replace him if he left. Not being a n Arias basher, I had nothing against the guy. He had his bad games and great games just like anyone else. But there was something stagnant this year about the playcalling that made us look like last year’s model of car. I grew to hate the long incomplete throws to Wallace , usually into double coverage, (Ben or Arians ? who knows), the use of Heath Miller early in games and then his complete disapperance later on, the lack of throwing to the RB’s…it was all predictable and sometimes effective but the feeling from me is we need some new blood and new ideas. Ben is 30 now. It’st time to stop playing Houdini under pressure and start THINKING out there. He’s quite capable of doing that and noone wants him to give up the unique things that make him Big Ben. But every player must learn to change their game as they age. Perhaps a new coordinator will help him do that. I can’t believe he wouldn’t have huge input to who the new guy is.

    Now Arians will coach for 5 more years and we’ll win 2 more SB’s..lol…Fine with me.

    • Mike L

      You bring up many strong points.  I would like to put some contrast to Ryan points.  Having a top 10 offense should be expected.  We have a top 10 paid QB if you look at the top passing offenses from FO you will find the highest paid QB or soon to be (Brees and Rodgers).  So the expectation should be there.  Does Ben have enough weapons?  I think so.  Therefore failure to score, in the redzone, falls on one or two heads the playcalling or QB.  I would distribute the blame but place more on Arians.  As mentioned TEs and backs score more receiving TDs in the red zone.  (anyone remember Redman against Balt last season) 
      Another point and this is in hindsight, Ben should not have played the last 3 games.  Unless the coaches were given horrible medical opinions, the team would have been better off with him resting and taking a 6th seed.  We have been told time and time again by players they will risk their health (over 50% would play with a concussion), Ryan Clark would have played in Denver, and Ben needs to do what is best for the team.
      I was disappointed in the playcalling during the Denver game.  Even though Ben was far from 100% the Steelers rushed well.  In the first quarter the stats for Redman were 8 carries 39 yds, (Clay was 1 ofr 1yd) and no negative yds.  The passing was 7-13 and 79 yds and no int or sacks.  This balanced attack resulted in two FGs, I was asked if I was worried about not having TDs, my reply was if they kept running they would completely wear down the undersized Denver defense.  They didn’t.  Redman only carried 10 more times in the game, even though he added 82 more yards.  Denver is undersized up front and has been outstanding on defense when they controlled TOP but horrible when they lose TOP.  If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.  What is the definition of going away from doing something successfully?

      • Cols714

        I do not regret them playing Ben the final game. I don’t think he should’ve played in the SF game because he clearly couldn’t move, but the Cleveland game he needed to play to get the rust off a little bit. I definitely wouldn’t have liked them going into the playoffs with Ben taking a month off. I would say that was the correct decision.

        As far as play calling against Denver, I thought it was fine. A dropped Mike Wallace  catch here, a snap over the head there, a great play by a Bronco to strip Ben on the last drive are the culprits. You want more running, but they were down 20-6 at halftime, not a ton of time to run the ball when you are down by two TDs and haven’t shown the ability to stop the opposing team’s offense.

        I’m guessing if the defense did not shit the bed you would have seen plenty more of Redman.

        Once again, not that Arians is great or that there aren’t problems, but that Denver game is on the defense, the offense with a hobbled Ben, no Pouncey, Starks, or Mendenhall played pretty well.

        • Mike L

          I disagree about Ben.  The best chance to defeat the Pats is with a healthy Ben.  Give him the Broncos 1 st half to shake off rust because if they have no chance against the Pats the Denver game does not matter. 

          In the Denver game the offense went away from the run when it was 7-6.  Their next plays were pass, pass, pass punt then run, sack, int.  Setting Denver up for a  17-6 lead.  Redman had 6 carrries for 77 yds in the 2nd half.  His success was largely because Denver was playing pass most of the game.  When Hampton and Keisel went out the defense became undersized and lost depth and needed to get off the field when this did not happen, the Steelers needed to commit more players to stopping the run.

          In the Steelers best rushing game of the season (7.1 ypc for Redman) they barely ran.  

          • Cols714

            But you can’t blame play calling in the pass pass pass punt sequence because they called a great play. The deep pass to Wallace was there for a huge 58 yard gain. 

            He dropped it. I don’t know why that’s bad play calling.

          • Mike L

            Even if that 52 yd pass was caught, the Steelers still would have been more effective rushing 6.8 vs 6.57.  If you watch the Bronco safeties they are back and the DL is pass rushing most of the game.  The Steelers passed 70.5% of their plays.  Imagine a pitcher throwing that percentage of fastballs, you may get some strikeouts but everyone will sit on the fastballs and you will lose more games than you win.  If the Steelers would have run more Denver would have had to commit more to stopping the run, thus opening playaction and passing lanes.  Just look at the play in OT.  Running would also helped to slow down the DL giving Ben more time to throw late in the game.

          • Cols714

            So calling a good play that gets your WR open for a 58 yard bomb is a bad thing because by your estimation they should have run the ball there.

            This makes no sense whatsoever.

  • Cols714

    Fitchner. Actually this would be an OK result. This would keep continuity so no one has to learn a whole new playbook and terminology, but get some fresh ideas into the offense.

    I’d want him to replace BA if he leaves.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    What about Tom Clements? He was our QB coach when both Kordell and Maddox (!) made the Pro Bowl. Elvis Grbac also made a Pro Bowl under him. He’s the QB coach in GB for Favre, Rodgers and Flynn. He’s supposedly interviewing for the Bucs head coaching job, but Tampa may not want to elevate a position coach two rungs again.

  • ecks

    haha bring mike martz out of retirement! maybe his system would give roethlisberger the structure he needs, and he’ll sandbox less and take less hits?

    probably too much personality though.

    how about bringing back mark whipple?  quick google search says hes QB coach of the browns though.

  • Cols714

    It sounds like if Arians retires that Fichtner is the next guy. At least that’s what I’m getting from the stories.

    I don’t know why people expect that this will change how Ben plays. He plays how he plays and is probably not going to change. After all the guy has brought the team to 3 Super Bowls that way. It’d be really hard to argue that he ought to change.

    Not that checking down and taking less sacks wouldn’t be helpful. It would! But I don’t think he’s going to change his ways.

  • Cols714

    In other news, it sounds as if Gilbert is going to be the starting LT next year. This is excellent. Now  if they can go find a LG and re-sign Starks the line will be pretty set.

  • https://plus.google.com/100857546184516732260 drobviousso

    I haven’t heard this name at all, but I’d kind of like Clyde Christensen.  He’s been the Colts OC for a few years, but I don’t know if he still has a job (or will once the new HC is hired there).  I’m not sure the Steelers can or should switch to a different O scheme with Ben at this point in his career.  This guy has a lot of experience running a similar O scheme (maybe even the same, not sure), might be out of a job, and doesn’t seem afraid, at least in theory, of giving his QB the green light for a no huddle drive.

  • Jeff

    Joe Lombardi from the Saints. 3 wide with YMC and opens things up for Mendy. 

  • Randy Steele

    One major impression of the Steelers’ offense this season that I’m left with was its overall sloppiness. To say the least, it was often clunky and clumsy, lacking good rhythm and crisp precision, especially in the red zone.

    Yes, there were a lot of reasons (of for some, excuses) for it, but I think at least some of that problem lay with the quarterback and the coaching staff.

    That’s why I think that if Arians is truly retiring/being retired, it might be smart to go outside the organization and find someone with a strong offensive philosophy that’s in tune with the modern NFL, someone whom Ben might not be quite so comfy.

    Hey, we all need a good kick in the pants once in a while.

    • Anonymous

      That strikes a chord with me. A great offense playing sloppy. I guess it could also have been a poor offense getting lucky, but I prefer to believe the former.

  • Cols714

    Was listening to a Jericho Cotchery interview and he said he’d like to be back. The other interesting thing from the interview was that he commented on how much the players love playing in BA’s system.

    I think I’ve heard similar things from Ben over the years.

  • Cols714

    Now that it might actually happen, I’m kind of excited to get a new OC in town. It’ll at least make things interesting over the winter.

  • Cols714

    And Arians retires.

    OK, now what? 

  • Anonymous

    So he is officially out: http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/7483430/pittsburgh-steelers-offensive-coordinator-bruce-arians-retiring

    Now it only remains to be seen if I will be dining on my words in about one year’s time….fingers crossed, and please pass the salt just in case.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    I was surprised at how short and un-specific Tomlin was in his statement about Arians.

  • Cols714

    Fichner seems like the obvious choice. Since I have no knowledge about what the Steelers are looking for I’d rank him #1 among replacements.

  • Canadian Steeler

    Wexell’s suggesting it could be Caldwell. Has ties to Tomlin and we could do worse. While in no way can he be credited with the Colts style of offence, that’s the style we will probably have the most success with. If he can improve Ben pre-snap, I’m all for it.

    • Cols714

      I’m more of get someone new rather than a retread like Caldwell. Not saying he’d be a bad hire or anything, I just like when they hire new young guys.

  • Rob D

    I vote for Tom Clements. Only cause I got to meet him personally a few times when he was involved with the CFL Ottawa team and he was a super nice and very impressive guy. Smart, “with it”, and according to many in the football community, a genius in reading D’s and throwing the ball. I know many scoff at the CFL, but a lot of guys who coached and played there learned a lot about the possibilities in the passing game. That knowledge is invaluable as the NFL continues to throw up yardage numbers every week that make your head spin.

    (Next year I full expect them to ban tackling! LOL>..its slowing up the game considerably)

    I think anyone who is around a superior offense like GB’s might have picked up a few things. We need an injection of new ideas.

  • Cols714

    Arians bashers are so annoying. One of the headlines from a steelers blog right now is
    “ The Bubble Screen of Death is Dead” This is why I hate bashing OCs. Pretty much every team hates their own guy after they’ve been there for more than a couple of years. I am kind of glad we get a new OC this year, but it’s stuff like that headline that makes me defend BA.

    • Rob D

      Same here, Cols…SO much of the criticism of Arians is over the top and not reasoned out. He did a lot of good in Pittsburgh and they rarely point out his strengths as an OC. Every position coach in the NFL is under the magnifying glass but some critics only pick out the failings. It’s tiresome also to hear the same rants over and over again..I have been guilty as anyone at times of “group think/hate” when it comes to coaches. But I do try to calm down and look at things objectively… eventually.

      Bruce seemed to have a wry sense of humour about all the criticism as well..which only endeared him to me a little bit more. He could take the heat..and the next guy up is going to need a thick skin as well. Hope we find that guy before the draft.

      • Sarah

        Some snarky stuff in the Pgh papers today re the firing/retiring. BA’s best friend has been the writers in Pgh and they sound miffed LOL!

        Listening to local talk shows –  Clements seems a fave. Can’t comment, don’t know enough about it.

        But I for one am glad to see BA go. That does NOT mean things will improve under a new OC, esp given Ben’s Diva status, but I don’t think there’s any question that with an elite QB, the best young core of WRs in the league and at least decent RBs, despits the OL, they have underachieved this year. With that crew you need to do better than the 20′s rating in the league overall.

        Again – will things get better w new OC? Dunno.

        But I look forward to not being able to predict the next play all damn game long.

        PS  It does seem likely that this move came from the Rooneys. We may never know that for sure…

        • GlennW

          > It does seem likely that this move came from the Rooneys. We may never know that for sure…

          I think we do know for sure, or at least that there’s very little doubt.  When Tomlin publicly announces that he wants both coordinators to return, and then Arians tells reporters he wishes to return only to “retire” a few days later, well, the writing is on the wall.  And it’s spelled “ROONEY”.

          • Anonymous

            Or Colbert. Or Tomlin always keeps his card close to his chest, and his statement isn’t real data.

          • GlennW

            Maybe Colbert, if he has that kind of clout regarding Tomlin’s staff (I had assumed he doesn’t, possibly wrongly).  Can’t see it with Tomlin though.  If he really didn’t want Arians back and was just trying to throw people off his scent with that public statement in order to deflect blame for the decision (or for any other reason), that’s pretty much a jerk move.  I don’t see that in Tomlin, especially as I’ve always sensed that he genuinely likes and respects both Arians and LeBeau.  Certainly has had their backs at every opportunity for media criticism.

          • Anonymous

            Isn’t “we want him back but he’s retiring” gentler than announcing a firing no matter who decided on it?

          • GlennW

            Yes, and that’s ultimately where this ended up.  But before that, after the Denver loss, Tomlin stated (both publicly and privately, according to Arians) that he wanted Arians back, and Arians was telling reporters that he indeed would return.  Arians himself is now confirming all this– he “retired” only because the Steelers didn’t offer him a contract.

            Precisely how everything went down is really not a big deal, but I just don’t see Tomlin pulling a bait-and-switch on his trusted colleague like this, nor do I believe that Arians is lying.  It’s certainly Rooney’s right to overrule Tomlin and I’m not even criticizing that part of it at face value.  The biggest issue is the one suggested by Ryan– how does Mike Tomlin feel about this?  Ownership decisions regarding a coach’s staff can cause rifts.  Or not– maybe Tomlin was ambivalent about Arians anyway and was easily persuaded– we just don’t know.

  • Mike L

    It is being reported that Arians was told by the Steelers his contract would not be renewed.  If true, and since the Steelers organization is not known for making snap judgements, why do you think they would let him go?

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      Sounds like this was Rooney II’s call (at least according to Dulac). It’s all very weird.

  • Cols714

    Which OC will Steelers fans hate if he is hired? My bet in on Caldwell. If he’s the guy, he’ll become the new Arians pretty quickly.

  • Rob D

    Rematch! Pats/Giants.

    Reading through some of the Ravens sites and boy..are they going insane with grief. I know that feeling well. Sooner or later, your team will let you down at the worst possible time. Sometimes things aren’t going well in your life but your sports team wins and it all seems just a little better for a while. Still, I can’t watch Harbaugh and his schoolyard bully face and think “Yeah..that guy deserves to win a SB.” Errrrrr…no.

    But it’s hard to watch DArth Vader and the rest of his minions in the corporate box full of 1 percent’ers high five each other in anticipation of yet another SB. Says here they arent’ winning anyway..the Giants are playing better on D than the Ravens and have a far superior offense to boot as well as ST’s worthy of the name. If they get a pass rush, this one could be over by the 3rd quarter.

    That 49ers D is going to be …what?…awesome? yeah, that’s about right. Absolutely loaded with talent, size, youth and first round goodness. If they ever get a decent offense together (I don’t think Alex Smith is the long term answer but I could be wrong..something about him reminds me of some guy from the Colts past named Jim Harbaugh..lol) they could be something to marvel at.

    AFter all the hand wringing about the offenses taking over, D still matters in the playoffs. Some well played games that forced teams to earn their yardage..fewer penalties as well helped out..

    • Sarah

      Well we look on the bright side today guys – It’s not the Ratbirds, and TWO Harbaughs lost.

      The shocked faces on the Balt sideline were classic.

      • Cols714

        I was rooting for Balt. I don’t want Brady and Belichick to get #4

        • New Eric

          I was also grudgingly rooting for Baltimore, but if N.E. was going to win, I’m glad it was in an uninspiring effort at the hands of an excruciating Baltimore defeat.  I am totally on board the Giants bandwagon against the Pats.  I’m a little surprised the Pats are early 3 point favorites.  After all, the Giants did beat them this year, and have now knocked off the high-octane Packers on the road, and the best defense in years on the road in bad weather.  They seem to be able to play whatever kind of game is necessary to win.  I’m trying to look at this objectively, and I really think the Giants have a great chance to win this game.  Eli has been playing out of his mind the past few months.

          • Cols714

            Eli is playing a lot like Ben right now. Extending plays and waiting for someone to get open. 

            I think the Giants win this one. NEs secondary is terrible and even the mediocre Balt receivers were getting open even if Flacco didn’t see them half the time. Ben would have shredded that secondary again. I don’t think the Steelers D could have stopped them the way Balts did.

            Wilfork was awesome yesterday. We could use a DL like that.

        • GlennW

          Yeah, I was also holding my nose and rooting for the Ravens, but the best thing about this game was that by the 4th quarter, you knew it was going to be painful for whomever lost.  Little did we know just how painful.

          From an entirely self-centered point of view, I’ve been treated pretty poorly at Ratbird Stadium in my 6 visits there (to be expected with a rival, but it’s been over-the-top) so I don’t mind piling a little more suffering onto Baltimore’s already burgeoning inferiorty complex.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

          I can’t use the word “root” in relation to either team but I was hoping Baltimore would lose more than I was hoping NE would lose.  My rationale is pretty simple.  In the worst case scenario where the AFC wins the superbowl, what would be worse?  In my mind, Belichick is a great coach and Brady is a great quarterback, Spygate aside.  While I don’t want them to win another one, they are at least deserving of it.

           Harbaugh and Flacco?  I don’t know if I could stomach “Superbowl winning-” attached to either of those whiny, mediocre people.

          • GlennW

            I do have some sympathy for Flacco, but none for Harbaugh.  After taking a lot of crap (including some from Ed Reed) Flacco played a very good game, and by all rights would have been the hero had Lee Evans treated protecting a game-winning TD catch as something of a minor priority.  Yeah, Flacco pouts some.  Could be worse though– he could behave like Tom Brady (who treats every INT as a moral failing of his targeted WR).

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

            I have no sympathy for Flacco.  When Tavaris Jackson, Matt Moore and Rex Grossman have higher completion percentages than you, you probably shouldn’t complain that you don’t get enough respect and admiration.

          • GlennW

            Flacco certainly had a down year by even his standards.  But he’s got a career passer rating of 86.0 (Ben’s is 92.1 by comparison), throwing to receivers that have been thoroughly mediocre imo.  Whether “sympathy” is the right word or not, it’s objectively unfair or wrong that Flacco is often tossed into the “this guys sucks” garbage bin with the likes of a Mark Sanchez (73.2 career).  He’s just not *that* bad.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

            I don’t know.  Every time I watch him play, my impression is that the passing game is check downs to ray rice and throwing the occasional hail mary.  When you only complete half your passes and of those completions a full 25% (!) are to your running back… that’s pretty awful. 

            Certainly a bad year to whine about how you aren’t appreciated.

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      I was happy with both outcomes.  Baltimore lost and Classy Brady in the Hunt Trophy presentation said of himself, “I sucked.”  No Harbaughs, no premature Gatoradization, No RayRay… As long as the Giants win, all will be well. 

      I did feel bad for Cundiff (who looks like he’s going to cry even when things are going well) and the Niners Williams, who will think about those two fumbles for the rest of his life.

  • David

    Great to see the Raisins lose, but it’s all on Harbaugh. Evans dropped the TD pass, but the DB made the play of his life.

    The three plays on Harbaugh were the 4th & 1 at the Patsies’ 3 (they ended up kicking it), the wasted TO on the 4th & 6 (where he shoved his ST coach), and rushing the FG. Did anyone else see that Cundiff had to run just to get into position and the snap was rushed?

    But what a great weekend! Raisins, Harbaughs, and Dukies lose.

    Anyhow, Go Giants!

  • David

    The other thing I noticed yesterday: Wallace needs to study tape on Cruz. That’s how a deep threat WR becomes a complete receiver.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

    Even if you don’t want to like Suggs, this clip will make it really hard.

    • GlennW

      I like Suggs.  There’s always a lot of empty bluster coming out of his mouth, but unlike with Ray-Ray he’s just having fun, not taking himself too seriously.  Except maybe with Skip Bayless.

      • Cols714

        This is exactly it. I also like Suggs and we would love him if he were a Steeler. But Lewis takes him self so seriously that I really think he believes all that rah rah crap.

        • Rob D

          Yes..I agree..Suggs is playing a role and enjoying it. Ray has a personality disorder..lol..Still, I warmed up to Ray when he stuck up for Harrison. That was cool.

  • Dean Keaton

    The longer the Steelers go without hiring someone, the more it seems they might be waiting for the Ravens to release Cam Cameron… I really hope that’s not the case

    • EasyLikeSundayMorning

      The longer things go, the less likely it is that Ficthner is a slam dunk (or else they would have just named him already).  Doesn’t mean they won’t hire him, though.

      I don’t really have an opinion on Cam Cameron.  But Arians bashers gently tapped him on the head compared to the regular smackdown Cameron got from Ravens fans.

      Sounds like Hue Jackson may be going to Indy with Pagano.

      • Cols714

        Steelers fans would absolutely go crazy if they hired Cam Cameron. He’d be run out of town faster than Joe Walton.

        Of course Ravens fans hate Cameron, just like Browns fans have hated every OC they’ve had since Lindy Infante. Pretty much every team questions their team’s play calling.