What are we to make of the Steelers' schizophrenic offense this season?
Good one game, bad the next. Bad in the first half, good in the second. This offense does not look like it is being run by an offensive coordinator. It looks like it is being run by TWO offensive coordinators. Namely, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Arians.
Just a couple of examples should suffice, one against a bad team and one against a good team.
Against Detroit: The Steelers lead had just been cut to 14-13 after an interception returned for a touchdown. Ben asks Mike Tomlin to go to the no-huddle. Quicker than the blink of a gnat's eyelash, the Steelers are leading 28-13.
Against Denver: Same thing. Terrible first half offense. In the second half, an interception returned for a touchdown to give Denver a 10-7 lead. Immediately afterward, two drives using the no-huddle, two touchdowns.
And speaking of the no-huddle, last season the Steelers played eight games (including the Super Bowl) in which they had to drive for the winning score in the last three minutes or so of the game. They won six of those games. In all six they used the no-huddle with Ben calling the plays. In the other two they did not use the no-huddle, Mr. Arians called the plays, and they lost.
The Steelers did not win because of Mr. Arians last year. They won in spite of him. Mr. Arians' offense did not win the Super Bowl last year. Ben's offense did.
The offensive play calling and performance in the most recent loss to Cincinnati is just the latest evidence of this.
Against Cincinnati this week:
Passing: 20/40, 174 yards
Rushing: 18 rushes, 80 yards, 4.5 yards/rush. (Excluding Ben's scrambles: 16 rushes, 65 yards, 4.0625 yards/rush)
And no use of the no-huddle offense.
In five third down situations, with two or three yards to go, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Arians called for a shotgun formation with no running backs or one running back in blocking position.
Five blitzes by the Bengals defense, two passes knocked down by the pass rush, two passes hurried and thrown high for incompletions, one pass deflected by a linebacker in coverage and intercepted.
Five third downs, two or three yards to go, four or so yards/rush average, and not one running play called? Did Mr. Arians replay Minnesota's play-calling at the Steelers one yard line before making his play calls?
With an inconsistent passing game that was obviously struggling against a decent Bengals defense, did logic and past evidence prevail and cause Dr. Jekyll to consider more timely running plays or the no-huddle to put pressure on the Bengals defense?
In the last two minutes of the game, when the Steelers needed a touchdown drive to win, did logic and past evidence prevail and cause Dr. Jekyll to consider the no-huddle to put pressure on the Bengals defense?
Instead, Dr. Jekyll turned the offense over to Mr. Arians. Should we have expected a different outcome than failure and a loss?
And please, don't give me any of that nonsense like "This isn't your father's Pittsburgh Steelers anymore," "The Steelers are a passing team now" or "The Steelers aren't a power running team anymore." That is wishful thinking, not a reasoned, logical conclusion based solely on the evidence of what does and does not work.
Whether or not the Steelers are a running team or a passing team is irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is what is successful. When Mr. Arians calls the plays and relies heavily on the pass, it hasn't been successful compared to balanced play calling.
Consider: Regardless of overall passing or rushing yardage, or yards per pass or rush, in the Steelers' wins this season, the ratio of passing plays to rushing plays has been between 1.0 and about 1.5. In the Steelers' losses, the pass/rush ratio has been 2.0 or greater. And, by the way, this was also true for most of last season's games as well.
Even when the yards per rush has not been all that good, the running game has been good enough much of the time to get tough yards and to get the first down when needed.
Good enough, that is, when Dr. Jekyll makes decisions based on the evidence of what does and does not work, rather than turn the offense over to Mr. Arians to do as he pleases.
And please, don't tell me that not having Troy Polamalu in the game has been the reason for the losses. The defense has played well enough to win every game that Troy has missed, including the most recent loss to Cincinnati. In each of those games, one more touchdown, one less screw-up in the red zone, one less Mr. Arians brain cramp on third down and two yards to go, and the Steelers would be undefeated.
For the Steelers to win the division and be assured of a playoff spot, they must now win the division outright based on overall record, which means that the Bengals must lose at least two more games.
The Bengals' remaining schedule is a cakewalk, except for games against Minnesota and San Diego. Minnesota has the defense to beat the Bengals. San Diego does not. So, the chances for the Steelers to win the division are small.
And now, they have to worry about just making the playoffs even as a wildcard.
If the Steelers are going to win it all, they'll have to win in spite of the offensive play calling. It looks like 2005 all over again.
Turnovers and other mistakes can be overcome. A schizophrenic maniac for an offensive coordinator cannot. Dr. Jekyll had his chance and turned it down. Mr. Arians must go.
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