Is it finally time to give Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians some credit?
Apparently not. After he was given some kudos in Monday's Mirror for his play-calling in the Steelers' 24-19 AFC Championship victory over the New York Jets on Sunday night, the Arians detractors were quick to email their displeasure.
"You must have left at halftime,'' an emailer wrote. "The Jets made adjustments in their defense at the half, but the Steelers made no adjustments in their offense. The result was a complete shutdown of the Steeler offense in the second half.''
Reading or hearing these comments is nothing new - Arians is probably the most criticized man in Pittsburgh. He probably doesn't rank as the best offensive coordinator in the NFL and deserves to be criticized on occasion, but it's time to give the man some respect.
I have a hard time believing the Steelers - with a below-average offensive line - will be playing in their second Super Bowl in three seasons with a lousy offensive coordinator. And offense wasn't the problem last season when they didn't make the playoffs.
The offensive game plan was solid in the first half with the Steelers pounding the football. It wasn't all the play-calling the line was getting a push off the snap, Rashard Mendenhall was running hard and Ben Roethlisberger was scrambling when plays broke down, but the Jets defense couldn't figure out what was coming next.
The Jets have one of the best defenses in the NFL - ask Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
In the second half, the Steelers offense certainly didn't match its first-half success, but it only had four possessions two ended in Roethlisberger turnovers, one was shut down by two New York sacks and the last one ran out the clock. On that final drive, Arians called for passes on second-and-9 and third-and-6 that caught the Jets off guard.
The last one was a 14-yard reception by Antonio Brown that sealed the victory.
"It was a situation where you run the ball and punt, or you try and win the game,'' Arians said. "We set that play up Thursday for Antonio to get open, and we called it there. We could have played it safe and run the ball, but that's not as nice as kneeling down [at the end].''
Arians, who by all accounts has a terrific relationship with Roethlisberger, didn't call a perfect game, but not many NFL offensive coordinators do. Ultimately, they are judged by how successful their teams are.
Arians has earned more Super Bowl rings in his NFL coaching career than offensive minds like the Chicago Bears' Mike Martz, the Jets' Brian Schottenheimer and the Baltimore Ravens' Cam Cameron combined.
And all three of them will be watching Arians coaching in Super Bowl XLV.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.