Pittsburgh Steelers: Bruce Arians Serves Up Crow
Please excuse me for a moment while I step outside to verify that the sky isn't falling.
Because, you see, forthwith I will say something that I have never said before (at least not that I can recall):
Bruce Arians called a good game.
If there has been a more vociferous critic of Arians' play-calling, I don't think I've met him yet. However, after being as objective as can be expected from a crazed partisan commentator, I must admit that Arians did a good job in the AFC Championship game.
Not great, mind you, and certainly not perfect, but solidly good.
Even though the offense did a less than stellar job of adjusting its strategy in the second half to counteract the change in approach by the Jets defense, I can think of only two or three plays in the entire game that seemed to me to be just plain bad calls.
With the Steelers' 11th-ranked rushing offense going up against the Jets' third-ranked rushing defense and a banged-up offensive line with a revolving door personnel policy, it looked like the Steelers' running game did not match up well with the Jets defense.
The passing game didn't project to be much better. With the Steelers' 14th-ranked passing offense up against the Jets' sixth-ranked pass defense and those outstanding defensive backs, it looked like Air Arians would also have tough going.
Everyone knows that Arians loves the passing game and would throw the ball on every down if team ownership would allow it.
So, I expected Arians to be as stubborn as his previous head coach was (one Mr. Cowher, you may recall), to tug on Superman's cape, to spit into the wind, to pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger (with apologies to Jim Croce) and pass, pass, pass.
The Jets defense doesn't like to blitz all that much, however, preferring to play more standard sets and to clog up the middle of the field with their linebackers rather than stack the line of scrimmage.
The Jets began the game in just this way, and tried to take away the pass.
So Arians ran the ball. And ran the ball some more. And ran the ball still more.
And with Rashard Mendenhall running like Jim Brown, the running game starved the Jets offense for most of the game, built an almost insurmountable lead, and forced the Jets to change their defensive strategy.
I loved it, but I would have bet the house that Arians would try to win with the pass.
And then, at the most critical point very late in the game, needing one or two first downs to sustain the drive and run out the clock, Arians struck again.
The Jets expected the run, so Arians passed for a first down. And the Jets still expected the run. So Arians passed again for another first down to seal the victory.
And again I loved it, and again I would have bet the house that Arians would go conservative and try to seal the victory with the run (remember the first game against the Ravens?)
Boy, was I ever wrong.
So, you can pass the crow now.
I should be able to wash it down happily, with the help of the quart-sized beer mug that my sister bought me for Christmas, filled with my favorite brewed beverage, of course.
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