The Steelers' Bruce Arians, Rhianna, and Diamond Dave: Let's Innovate!
Innovation has always been part of the American fabric. Back in 1954, new ideas ranging from the T.V. dinner and the first color set to the first mass polio vaccination were born from the ingenuity of the times.
It was in this cradle of creativity that the concept of the "I" formation first appeared on the football field.
Now, before I truly get started, allow me to preface: I have heard that "dog years" equal approximately seven human years, but I have never heard of football concepts being assigned a human equivalent in order for us to really understand the aging process. But for the sake of my argument, we are going to assume that football concept years equal human years.
In 1954, the "I" formation strategy emerged in the pigskin world, and in October of that same year, so did Diamond David Lee Roth.
Many of us who grew up in the Midwest feel a debt of gratitude to Van Halen. They were amazing in the '80s, churning out anthem after anthem. They certainly had their day; it is hard to argue against that fact. But many who lived through Van Hagar will point to the latter incarnation of the band in order to underscore the fact that every good idea runs its course.
Incidentally, Sammy Hagar is older than Diamond Dave. Born in 1949, Hagar's life began as the life of the AAFC ended. Its folding delivered the Baltimore Colts, San Fransisco 49ers, and Cleveland Browns into the NFL, but that is another story.
Back to Diamond Dave. As recently as 2007, Dave had re-emerged as Van Halen's front man. He had cropped the remainder of his flowing mane, but he still shimmied into his pleather pants and painted on a six pack of abs in order to give his fans the show that they expected.
And his efforts are not without reward. There are die-hard fans out there who will hold onto the hope of seeing Diamond Dave shuffle out onto the stage on an annual basis, though most of us would prefer to be treated to an evening with the "real" Van Halen on a very limited basis.
Now, let's apply all this to today's gridiron, following my presumption that football strategy years equal human years. Why do we hold onto seeing such an antique concept as seeing the "I" formation on every first, second, and even third down?
I don't read a lot of Pats fan commentary, but I would guess that fan feedback regarding Tom Brady's five-receiver set is minimal.
New England forges ahead. Kraft and Belichick seize every advantage that is available to the organization, but no matter their innovative identity, it will still take years before they can cite the benefit of history.
I see the Pittsburgh Steeler organization as not only historical, but also as being avant garde for the sake of responsible business practices. The Steelers have history to guide them, and it is for the future history of the team that today's decisions are tweaked. For generations to come, Steeler fans will be afforded the opportunity to continue to look to the Steelers for a model.
Bruce Arians has mentioned in past interviews that personnel (namely the retirement of Jerome Bettis) dictates strategy.
Now, I believe that Arians is a great offensive coordinator; I jumped for joy when Tomlin gave him the job. At that time, I had no idea that Arians had had a large hand in making Peyton Manning the quarterback that he is today.
It was the 2002 Browns v. Steelers Wild Card game. I can't watch that contest without wondering how in the "Wide Wide World of Sports" that the Steelers won. Arians took a flash-in-the-pan backup Browns QB to within inches of beating the Steelers and advancing in the playoffs that year.
Now Arians has Ben Roethlisberger, which brings me to Rhianna. Yes, both are sexy trend-setters, but that was not the only thing that I wanted to point out.
Rhianna was born in 1988, which was the year that the no-huddle offense came onto the scene. Ben can run that strategy like nobody's business; he did it in college, and he can do it against the best planners in the league (see how he did against the Pats in '05; the Steelers lost, but No. 7 was very effective).
Rhianna struts out onto the stage in garments that grab our attention . She is a survivor, and she is not afraid to present her unique style. If football concepts are indeed judged in human years, I would much rather the Steelers go with a contemporary of Rhianna and keep that old Diamond Dave concept, the "I," in the bag of tricks until the time is appropriate.
Bruce Arians is an innovator. He has been a little stingy with the no-huddle, but he loves Ben and believes in his talent. The Steeler offense stepped up and won us our last Super Bowl; why hold onto an old concept that is the equivalent of hair plugs and liposuction when we can have one that is in its prime?
The Steelers have an offensive coordinator that will one day help us to look back on our victories and be proud. The 2005 season ended sweetly, but how much more beautiful was '08!
I say buckle up, Steeler fans! Let's get ready to see what Bruce has in store for '09. With Ben under center, our lethal receiving corps, our backs, and of course, Arians at the helm, our offense will be as dangerous as Rhianna's leather boots. If the metaphor holds, no matter the criticism, nobody in the business will have a response.
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