Bob Labriola recently sat down for the second part of his one-on-one interview with Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II and Rooney answered questions about full time officials, the new Steelers NIKE uniforms for 2012 as well as new throwback uniforms for next season as well. Labriola made sure to hit on the recent departure of offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, and while Rooney seemed to dance around the question at first, he then seemed comfortable pinning the reasoning on the Arians on again, off again retirement talk. He did however state how they were looking to improve the offense. I still think there might be a little more behind the reasoning of Arians not being asked back, but at least we have more clarity than we had right after the announcement came that Arians had retired that ended up being that Arians was not offered a contract. It is however more obvious than ever now that Rooney was the decision maker here, not Mike Tomlin as he tried to have us believe initially. Not that there is anything wrong with that, after all he is the President and part owner, but it makes no sense not to come right out and tell the truth. Fans appreciate that I think, but not that it is a huge deal in the giant scheme of things. It is just diehards like myself, maybe, that like to microscope every little word and action by the organization. In the end, Arians is gone, end of story and this will all start to tail off as soon as the replacement is named and bloggers like myself move on.
The second meaty question Labriola asked Rooney was centered around his thoughts on how the league has evolved more and more into a passing one. This of course was a sneaky way to fish if Rooney was indeed more geared towards an old school, blue-collar, heavy run offense like Chris Mortensen inferred earlier this week. Rooney of course only sniffed the bait and gently tugged on the hook, but he indeed did admit that he wanted quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to have that type of production that Labriola referred to in his stats examples. At least that is how I interpreted his comments. His comments about the defensive play in the playoffs certainly hold some water and this certainly plays into the thoughts that you have to be able to run the football later in the season. Not only is weather sometimes a factor in the winter, but defenses seem to do a better job in the playoffs, at least inside the red zone, of defending against the pass. This of course ties right back into the scoring problems the Steelers had this past season inside the opponents red zone with Arians at offensive coordinator. This all also nicely ties back into the comments that Rooney made two years ago about how they needed to run the ball better. Not so much that they needed to run more, but that they needed to be able to run the ball more effectively late in games, in short yardage situations and inside the red zone.
In case you can\’t watch the interview, or are short on time, I have transcribed the two meaty questions below for your convenience, but I highly suggest watching both part one and part two of the interview if you haven\’t already. I really think Labriola did a great job with these.
Labriola: Since we last talked, Bruce Arians retired and there are reports out there that you are the guy that retired him. What\’s your take on that?
Rooney II: Well, number one, Bruce did a good a good job for us and we appreciate everything he\’s done. I think the questions of how we got here are not really relevant. I think the key now is that Mike has begun the search for our next offensive coordinator and I think he\’ll do a good job in finding the right person and you know we\’ll go through the process and interview the right candidates, but I think we\’re looking to improve on offense and to have someone possibly who can be in place a number of years. You know Bruce had talked about retiring for a few years now and so I think it was time for a change, so we\’re looking forward to moving on.
Labriola: When you look at this 2011 NFL season, let me throw some stats at you. Three quarterbacks passed for more than 5000 yards a piece, nine were over 4000 yards. There were nineteen 1,000 yard receivers. In the Super Bowl, the Giants against the Patriots, the teams have quarterbacks that have passed for 10,000 yards and 68 touchdowns. None of the running backs in the game has rushed for even 700 yards One of the teams ranked 31st in defense, the other team ranked 27th in defense. Has the recipe for winning championships in the NFL changed?
Rooney II: Well there is no question the league is changing and the league is always evolving and there is no doubt that I think we\’ve seen the quarterback play in general this year, it might be the highest level we\’ve ever seen it, from a number of players. So number one I think we\’re fortunate to have a lot of very good quarterbacks in league right now. Number two, the rules have changed to allow more prolific passers and so I think that is what we are looking for, for our quarterback to be up there with the elite quarterbacks and to have that kind of production. I think you have to recognize all of those facts. The other side of the coin is I think if you look at these playoffs so far, we\’re not seeing teams scoring 30 and 40 points a game. So I think you have to remember what playoff football is all about . Defense still is a big part of the game and in these games we have seen so far in the playoffs, the defenses have made big plays and as I say, the scoring has been fairly consistent with past playoffs. So I think the game is evolving , but maybe not to the degree that some people would like to try to play it.