PITTSBURGH -- Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians did not see his forced retirement coming in 2012.
ESPN’s Tim Keown wrote an excellent profile on Arians and chronicled the winding road Arians took to a head coaching job in the NFL.
The part of the piece that will really resonate with Steelers fans is when Arians recalls getting a phone call from coach Mike Tomlin, not long after Pittsburgh had been bounced out of the playoffs by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
“I thought he was calling about a raise,” Arians told Keown. “Tells you what I know.”
After Tomlin informed Arians that his contract would not be renewed, the latter went along with the company line that Arians had decided to call it a coaching career. The Steelers eventually hired Todd Haley to take over for Arians.
When former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano landed the head job in Indianapolis, it also resurrected Arians’ coaching career.
He joined Pagano’s staff as an offensive coordinator and served as the interim head coach when Pagano was getting treated for leukemia.
The job that Arians did that season in Indianapolis led to his hiring by the Arizona Cardinals, and he has been one of the NFL’s most successful head coach since 2013.
Keown has a terrific statistic in his story: The Steelers were 55-25 with Arians as the offensive coordinator and they are 19-19 with Haley.
That comparison does require a little context.
The Steelers generally had really good to great defenses when Arians was the offensive coordinator from 2007-11. The Steelers have fielded middling defenses since Haley joined he organization in 2012.
As much as some want to bash Haley, it would be revisionist to suggest that Arians was beloved by Steelers fans when he was calling the plays.
It is also worth remembering that the Steelers won their share of game from 2007-11 in spite of their offense though Arians often had to make do with a banged-up offensive line.