Not saying Bruce Arians didn't have his moments, but . . .
It sometimes seems that Pittsburgh sports fans need someone to pick on to be happy, and despite being an assistant coach on three Super Bowl teams during his time in Pittsburgh, former offensive coordinator Arians was that guy.
But under Arians, the Steelers allowed more than 40 sacks every season. They often seemed so woeful in short-yardage situations that they would turn to acts of desperation, such as the 2009 game at Cleveland played in bitter cold where the Steelers famously lined up in an empty-set formation on 3rd-and-1 in the early stages of the game.
And while it makes sense that the offense would become more conservative when Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t play, it seemed Arians took this mindset to extreme levels with Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon playing. He often abandoned the pass, even in third-down situations despite the fact that passing was the only option to pick up a first down.
Enter new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the beneficiary of a victory against the Steelers as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009 because of play-calling. Tied 24-24 in overtime, with the Batch-led Steelers facing 3rd-and-2 at the Chiefs’ 35, Arians called for a pitch sweep to Mewelde Moore against the Haley-coached Chiefs.
It was a play that made no sense. Even if Arians felt a run was in order, a pitch sweep risked the same potential for losing yards a pass play would if Batch had been sacked.
Which is exactly what happened.
Moore was stopped for a three-yard loss, taking the Steelers out of field-goal range. The Chiefs scored on the next possession to win, 27-24.
Forget reservations you’ve heard that Roethlisberger has had about Arians’ departure. Roethlisberger produced under Ken Whisenhunt before Arians ever became the offensive coordinator.
Besides, Haley comes from a Pittsburgh background, as his father was Dick Haley, who evaluated talent during the glory years of the franchise a generation ago.