One of the biggest topics of discussion amongst Pittsburgh Steelers fans this off-season, outside of the ongoing status of restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace, is the change of offensive coordinators and how quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has handled it.
Roethlisberger is perceived by many as one, and the only one, bucking the change so far, and with good reason, as his comments made about the new offense have included several Rosetta Stone references, which infers to how hard the translation of it is. Last week Roethlisberger took it a bit father by saying the fan base would finally get its wish because the offense will apparently run the ball more in 2012, a blatant jab that he was not in favor of it.
While many think that Roethlisberger has issues with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who replaced his good friend and golfing buddy Bruce Arians, the real issue is likely that he feels slighted by the organization by having all of his input and control of the game planning ripped from him. In short, he feels Art Rooney II and company do not trust him or his opinion like they have for the past several years.
While Roethlisberger is surely not naive enough to think that Arians would have been his offensive coordinator for the rest of his career, he likely thought that his eight years in the league, that includes two Super Bowl championships and three AFC crowns, would give him some level of say in who was hired and what type of offense they would run moving forward. He likely thinks that he has earned that right over the years as one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
Control is something that Roethlisberger has been used to since Arians took over as offensive coordinator and Mike Tomlin was named the new head coach in 2007. Sports Illustrated posted a story back in November 2007 that tells about rise in trust the organization had in Roethlisberger, who just so happened to be coming off of a season that saw him throw for 23 interceptions versus just 18 touchdowns. The story goes that Arians and Roethlisberger were coming off the 7th green at Treesdale Golf & Country Club in Gibsonia, Pa. when Arians told his quarterback, “I want you to know something. This is not my offense. From now on this is your offense.”
Arians reportedly at that time let Roethlisberger edit the playbook that he had used under his first offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and allowed him to throw out some plays and rename others. In addition, Roethlisberger was allowed to change the verbiage and terminology of the offense so that it was easier for him to transmit in the huddle. Roethlisberger also implemented his own acronyms and word associations during that change over according to the story. When Whisenhunt was at the helm, Roethlisberger would normally receive the game plan when he arrived at the team facility on Wednesday morning with no say-so in it whatsoever. When Arians took over, the Steelers quarterback helped formulate the game plan at the beginning of the week and there is no reason to think that any of that has changed since then.
One of the biggest criticisms of Arians over the years is that he was too buddy-buddy with Roethlisberger and that he did not incorporate enough change in the offense over the years since he took over that it became too predictable in some instances. Throughout that span of time Roethlisberger became known as a quarterback that held the ball too long in addition. Even as elusive as he would be behind an often piecemealed offensive line, he still was sacked 215 times over the course of 73 regular season games. This led to several nagging injuries over the years and it all came to a head last season with his severe ankle injury that he suffered against the Cleveland Browns in week 14.
Should the Steelers somehow have went on to win the Super Bowl last year, it was clear that Rooney II had enough and a change of coordinators likely would have taken place regardless. A banged up franchise quarterback and an inexcusable loss to the Denver Broncos, even though it was not fully the fault of the offense, gave Rooney II the perfect opportunity to change things up and he did. Although Tomlin said it was his decision, it was one that was made with his arm twisted behind his back more than likely.
The hiring of Haley, which Tomlin also claimed to be his call, was one that had the fingerprints of Rooney II all over it as well because of the Steelers coaching tree association that Haley has along with his militant coaching style. Rooney II basically had seen that his quarterback had too much say in what was going on thus the change needed to be made in his eyes.
Roethlisberger has used the word “change” quite a bit this off-season in regard to the new offense and coordinator, but it is not the first time he has used it with the media though. Back in 2007, after learning that he would have a bigger say in the offense, he was quoted as saying, “It is definitely a change,” Roethlisberger said. “It gives you a lot more confidence to know that your coach believes in you.”
Roethlisberger now is in the midst of change in the other direction and he most likely feels that the confidence that was bestowed on him several years ago is no more. He most likely feels like a rookie once again with Haley now in charge and his multiple jabs that he takes through the media are a defense mechanism of his that he just isn\’t channeling properly. Back in that 2007 story I keep referencing, Roethlisberger was quoted as saying, “I like being the underdog.” That underdog mentality is the best defense mechanism that he will need the most for him to lead the Steelers to their 7th Super Bowl championship in 2012 as the jabs through the media are falling on deaf ears of the organization and only being heard by the fan base, many of who think he is acting like a little baby.