Rooney, Steelers Move Forward

The Steelers announced that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has retired. Mike Prisuta talked with Art Rooney about the Steelers' march into the future.

Bruce Arians has retired, and Art Rooney II said in advance that the call would be "pretty much Bruce's decision in conjunction with talking with Mike [Tomlin]."

However that statement was managed or came about, the Steelers can only wish their other offseason issues get resolved as easily.

The Steelers' president addressed a few of those during a telephone conversation with the WDVE Morning Show. Among the topics Rooney II tackled were:

* The "tweaking" of Ben Roethlisberger's game: "We're certainly not looking for Ben to make any major changes. He's had a great career so far. We're looking for many more years of the kind of production that he's had in the early part of his career.

"The only thing we'd like to see is that he stays healthy and can have a long career. It's not just on Ben. It's on the whole offense to try and make sure we reduce the sacks and reduce the hits on him so that he makes it through the season next year."

* How such changes are enacted after being voiced from above: "I don't think I'm saying anything that our coaches don't already know and don't strive for. Taking sacks isn't something that's in the gameplan every week. It is a fact of life with a quarterback like Ben who tries to hold onto the ball and make plays. No matter what we do we probably are going to continue to be a team that has more sacks than maybe the average.

"I think the key is just for Ben to not take the unnecessary sack and just try to get rid of the ball a little sooner on occasion. I don't think any of us are looking for a major tweak here and I don't think the coaching staff needs me to go down there and tell them what to do.

"It's one of those things everybody understands. It's that time in his career. It's something that Ben, I'm sure, is not necessarily looking forward to taking more hits, either. It's something that the whole offense, I'm sure, they'll be working on. I wouldn't want to overestimate my role in telling them how to do it."

* How complicated longer-term injuries and offseason surgeries will make putting next year's team together: "There's no doubt there are going to be a few question marks. There are going to be some guys where it will take a while for us to kind of monitor their health and see how they're recovering. Some of this is going to be a longer process than we might like in terms of evaluating their health and whether they can make it back and when."

* Potentially parting ways with decorated veterans, such as players in possession of multiple Super Bowl rings: "We have some guys that have made tremendous contributions to our success. A lot of them I think will go down as guys you consider to be all-time Steelers; it's tough. You certainly appreciate the sacrifice and the hard work that a lot of these guys have put in to being Steelers.

"So there are some tough decisions. When I say a tough decision, that's kind of what I mean. There are some guys here that if we had to part ways it would not be easy, but it's part of the business. I think everybody understands that. We're in a business where you have to be at the top of your game every week. If you're not able to be that there's somebody else out there that's willing and able to do that. It's just the nature of the business. We just have to go through the process and make smart decisions."

* The significance of defense in today's pass-happy NFL: "I think defense still wins championships. The group that's in the (conference) finals this weekend, it's kind of interesting. San Francisco has played great defense all year. Baltimore has played great defense all year. And then you have New England and the Giants, who have been kind of inconsistent on defense. It is going to be interesting to see how these teams do this weekend.

"As far as we're concerned defense is still a key piece to the puzzle. There's no doubt the rules have changed and the passing game has changed and that's just a reality. We have to be able to live with that as well and take advantage of that where we can. But I don't think you'll ever convince me that defense is not important.

"And I'm sure that coach [Bill] Belichick would probably say the same thing. I'm sure he doesn't really want to be No. 32 in the league in defense if he had his choice."

Belichick and the Patriots were actually No. 31 in total defense this season.

But at the same time, point taken.

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