Bruce Arians Throws Shade at Steelers in Wake of Super Bowl Triumph

Ben Roethlisberger

Getty Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers talks to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians during the 2011 AFC Championship game.

On Sunday Bruce Arians led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. The next day, the 68-year-old head coach did an interview with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, in which he spoke on a wide range of subjects, including Tom Brady’s future with the franchise and his team’s chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions.

But when asked about loyalty to his players, he seemed to go out of his way to take a shot at the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom he worked as wide receivers coach between 2004-06 and offensive coordinator from 2007-11.

“I’ve been accused that that is a fault,” he said. “Got fired in Pittsburgh because I was too loyal to Ben [Roethlisberger]. If that’s a problem, you’ve got the problem. I don’t have a problem. I get very close to my quarterbacks. My dad taught me one thing: You have your name and your loyalty, and those are the most important things you have.”

Bruce Arians Has Engaged in Revisionist History

Ouch. That’s a pretty harsh statement to make about an organization that is generally viewed as one of the most loyal and stable in the NFL.

It’s also a case of Arians trying to re-write history.

In fact, Arians himself alluded to the primary reason he was let go by the Steelers during a 2016 interview with Andrea Kremer for HBO Real Sports: “When asked why he thought the team let him go, Arians told Kremer ‘the style of offense, and my relationship with Ben [Roethlisberger].’”

“The style of offense” is a reference to the fact Roethlisberger was absorbing an enormous amount of punishment in Arians’ offense. During the five seasons that Arians served as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger was sacked 215 times, including 50 in 2019.

By way of comparison, Arians’ successor, Todd Haley, reduced Roethlisberger’s sack total to 30 in 2012, and Roethlisberger has been sacked ‘only’ 202 times in the nine seasons since Arians moved on.

As for Arians’ assertion that he was ‘too loyal’ to Roethlisberger, there’s a difference between being too loyal and having too close a relationship with the starting quarterback, which is the way Arians characterized the issue in 2016.

In the aforementioned interview with Kremer, “Arians mentioned that ‘some people’ thought he was too close [emphasis added] with the quarterback, likely a reference to Steelers president Art Rooney II, who has essentially confirmed that he was responsible for pushing Arians out, not because Arians was a doing a bad job but because it was “time for a change.”

Bruce Arians’ Career Has Ascended Since His Departure from Pittsburgh

Regardless, Arians has achieved his greatest career successes since Mike Tomlin indicated that Arians would be “retir[ing] from coaching.”

In 2012 he was named NFL Coach of the Year while serving as interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He won the award again in 2014 as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

In fact, if you include his 9-3 stint as interim head coach of the Colts in 2012, Arians has compiled a record of 76-47-1 as a head coach, plus a 5-3 record in the postseason.

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