Exclusive Q&A: Bruce Arians

Bruce Arians enters his second season as the Steelers' offensive coordinator with a plethora of talent. Arians talked one-on-one with SCI's Jim Wexell about the way in which he's going to use that talent. Here's the transcript:

BRUCE ARIANS

Q: Hines Ward called you "an evolver." Are you? And will you evolve further?

A: I think you have to. If you're not evolving, you're not getting better. You have to keep pressing the envelope to see what's available for each guy. You fit the pieces, and if one guy can't do it, it don't work. If they can all do it, let's keep moving, let's keep evolving. The more we can show a defense, the better we're going to be.

Q: What's the current evolution?

A:It started in the spring with some different packages and obviously different players and we've continued to grow.

Q: More no-huddle?

A: I don't think we can do any more than we did last year. Hopefully it'll be when we want to, not out of necessity when we're down 12. But we have to be able to control the game with speed or with a slow pace. By slow pace, we've got to be able to run the ball like we did in September and October at the end of a game, and not like we did in December when we gave it back to the other team. You have to be able to be tough enough and good enough to slow the pace down with a lead, and also speed the pace up when necessary.

Q: Any specific changes? I saw a lot of tight end at fullback today.

A: Last year we started with the three-TE stuff and we lost Jerame Tuman right away. You want to have those packages available. You keep throwing stuff at them and utilize guys who can play multiple positions to give the defense a different look.

Q: How will the pass game help minimize sacks?

A: We did blitz pickup this morning in the walk-through. And any time we play our defense, it's all blitz pickup. Fifty percent of that third-down period was blitz pickup. The first play was a great read by Ben and Hines and we got a first down on, really, a complicated blitz, so they obviously have been doing their homework.

Q: So it wasn't all the offensive line's fault last year?

A: Oh, no. Offensive line was responsible for probably 30 sacks, and I'm just throwing that out as a round number. There might've been 15 where the quarterback was trying to create plays. And I'm not going to stop that. But there were four or five by running backs, four or five by tight ends. It's a blocking unit. It's a receiver missing a hot or a quarterback missing a hot.

Q: What needs the work?

A: The all-around whole package. Every individual has to get better as a pass protector; the unit has to get better at recognizing, because it's becoming very modern for defenses to run around on defense. They don't just line up and tell you we're going to kick your ass. It's confusion, so it's very difficult in that sense. Luckily, we're one of the teams that do it, so we get to see it a lot.

Q: You said last year that you don't like 3-step drops. Any change in your thinking there?

A: Most of that stuff is an audible. If you call a three-step drop and you catch cover-2, you really don't have anywhere to throw the ball. So what you normally do is couple plays: A running play, and if they're overloaded on the run and they're single-covered, you can throw the ball quick, just don't get it picked.

Q: How much is Ben Roethlisberger evolving?

A: Every day he grows. We talk about plays, the new packages. He says he doesn't like it, likes it, likes it only out of this formation. He just keeps working. We probably threw more interceptions in the spring than we had in the previous two years because we were experimenting. It was like, ok, see if you can fit the ball in this hole, because you'll never know if you don't try. And if you get a pick, heck with it. We don't like interceptions, but we have to evolve that way, too. One of the evolvements is finding it. If we thought there was enough grass on this play, but the guy's making the play on defense, we throw it out.

Q: Is the Pony backfield, with Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, just a media pipe dream or is it realistic?

A: Yeah, we're going to look at it. We've got to see what he can do in pads. We know what Willie can do. How much they can play back there together, we're going to find out.

Q: Are you eyeing Mendenhall up for that closer role?

A: That's an obvious thing you'd think he'd be ready for. But first we know that any time Willie comes out of the game, we're putting in a stud. So hopefully he doesn't have to be thrown into the fire before he's ready, because I think he's going to be dynamite.


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