The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: In an alternate universe in which Bruce Arians was promoted to head coach in 2012 instead of being fired as offensive coordinator, would the Steelers have won a Super Bowl?
Bruce Arians just became the oldest head coach to ever win a Super Bowl, but it follows several years of a strong track record across three different organizations acting as head coach since the Steelers opted to fire him as offensive coordinator.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Steelers were wrong for letting him go. They needed to make a change in the offense with way their offensive line was at the time. And some people are better head coaches than coordinators, and vice versa.
But rather than ‘retiring’, Arians went on to take his professional coaching career to an entirely new level once he parted ways with Pittsburgh, culminating in a championship last night—with Tom Brady of all people.
Arians has won two Coach of the Year Awards. He has four playoff appearances in eight seasons as head coach (or interim head coach), with a 7-5 record. He previously got as far as the NFC Championship Game with the Cardinals in 2015.
Let’s say the Steelers chose to walk away from Tomlin after the disappointing Tim Tebow loss in 2011 and promote Arians. Would they have had more success since then with that change? Would they have won a Super Bowl? Is Arians a better coach—and would he have been a better coach specifically for the Steelers, and for the Steelers at that particular time?