Bruce Arians opens up about his Steelers “retirement”

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Following the 2011 season, the Steelers fired offensive coordinator Bruce Arians but tried to sell it as a retirement. Few non-Steelers fans were fooled.

In an upcoming profile to debut Tuesday night on HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, Arians opens up about the end of his time in Pittsburgh, which happened after his contract expired.

Arians explains to Andrea Kremer that he’d been told by coach Mike Tomlin a new contract was coming, with an adjustment aimed at reflecting the team’s performance on offense. A few days later, the call came.

“[Tomlin] said, ‘I can’t get you the money,’” Arians tells Kremer. I said, ‘Okay.’ He said, ‘No, I can’t get you a contract.’ I said, ‘Are you firing me?’ He said, ‘No. . . .’

“‘Well . . . it’s just a matter of words, Mike,'” Arian said. “‘Okay. If I don’t have a contract, I’m fired.’

“And he said, ‘I’m going to fly down and talk.’ [I] said, ‘Why waste the money and the time?’ And so that was it. Walked upstairs and told my wife. And I’ve never seen her cry. And she cried.”

Arians thinks that the firing happened because some thought he was “too close” with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

“I had done a good job,” Arians contends. “Maybe not the right image, but it was a damn good job. I was pissed. But again, time heals things.”

Time does heal things, especially when the retirement is temporary and ends with a Coach of the Year award as offensive coordinator of the Colts and then three successful seasons as head coach of the Cardinals, the second of which resulted in a second Coach of the Year award.

75 responses to “Bruce Arians opens up about his Steelers “retirement”

  1. Here we go.

    Before all the Steelers bashing begins… Look at how often Ben got hid under Arians compared to now.

    THAT was why Bruce was fired. Ben wouldn’t be in the league anymore if he had stayed in Pittsburgh.

  2. Yeah I knew Arians was for real and I’m with the Steelers, or any team with the AFC. I have no idea why people are surprised he worked out… I was a big fan of Dick Lebeau as well and would have been happy to have him on staff of my team… not sure why he isn’t a head coach either.

  3. sorry Bruce, but the truth is that the offense you ran exposed ben to too much punishment. the Rooneys made the right decision not to renew, and they tried to let you go gracefully, you just threw a temper tantrum on the way out,

  4. Yeah I knew Arians was for real and I’m NOT with the Steelers, or any team with the AFC. I have no idea why people are surprised he worked out… I was a big fan of Dick Lebeau as well and would have been happy to have him on staff of my team… not sure why he isn’t a head coach either.

  5. As a lifelong western PA bred Steeler fan, it seemed clear that Arians did a fantastic job – and I’m very thankful for his contributions. Arians was key in some huge games – including Super Bowl 43 and the games leading up to it, plus many more.

    My key concern with Arians was Ben was taking a LOT of hits. That offense, and Ben’s unfailing willingness to stare down the gun barrel and take the hit to make a play — often resulted in Ben on crutches, playing through a broken nose, sidelined or done for the season. That’s my only possible negative — but otherwise, Arians was fantastic, and his success after Pittsburgh was easy to anticipate and it’s just as easy to be happy for the guy.

  6. This was 4 years ago, so let it go already. Both teams are better for it. Arians is a successful HC, and Ben’s career has been lengthened by removing the “5 wide everyone go deep” play when their OL was average at best.

  7. Even though I hate the Cards, I have to admit it was a great hire. Arians is a top 5 coach imo. I’m glad we have Carroll cuz he was the right man for the Hawks job (rebuilding from scratch with players he knew and recruited since high school). But Arians and Steve Keim are right at the top with Schneider and Carroll. I’m glad the Santa Clara’s were dumb enough to run of Harbaugh cuz if he was still in the division it would be a blood bath between Carroll, Harbaugh, and Arians.

  8. i love how people say it’s been x amount of years let it go. Dude, just shut up. This man gave how many years of his life to that organization. You can say it’s money, you can say it’s a business… but dedicated men feel something for that kind of job. If you think that it’s just business or money then you ain’t human and you don’t know people.

  9. The front office in Pittsburgh has a tendency to send mixed messages. Look what happened with Russ Grimm. There shouldn’t be any confusion over a new contract. Either you want the coach and you pay up, or you don’t and you call the coach in the office and say, “thanks for your efforts, but…”

  10. Seems a slight stretch to make Arians a scapegoat for hits to a QB that likes to hold the ball as long as he can. Was it Arians’ fault that Ben was taking hits or the GM’s fault that the O-line and O-line depth was deficient? Seems like Carson Palmer isn’t getting hit with the Cards like Ben was.

  11. Why is Arians taking the blame from several steelers fans on here about Ben taking too many hits? Isn’t that Ben’s fault? It makes it sound like Arians would have ended Ben’s career if they didn’t rid of him. If that were the case, wouldn’t Carson Palmer be done in Arizona?

  12. Steelers let the wrong coach go. Tomlin is horrible. Sadly, we’re stuck with him because Colbert has done such a good job putting this team together that barring injury, they’ll be competing for a Super Bowl this year. Anyone could coach the sheer amount of talent the Steelers have and he unfortunately will get credit. Just like he got credit for winning with Cowher’s players and coordinators and inheriting a franchise QB.

  13. greg3117 says:
    Jun 17, 2016 2:03 PM

    Looks like the Colts let the wrong man go.

    =============================

    Of course. I could see the potential for this situation at the time, but there was no way they could fire a recovered Pagano for missing the season due to cancer after how the team rallied around him and so forth. Setting aside all emotion, obviously keeping Arians was the safer football move, but there was too much emotion, and the media would have made it too crazy.

  14. I’m a Steeler fan. I didn’t have a problem at the time with letting Arians go. Teams were adjusting to his offense more than Arians was adjusting to them. However, the whole departure was handled terribly by the organization. He deserved a more wholesome and honest answer than what he got.

  15. Am I the only person who isn’t on the Arians bandwagon? Especially after he almost lost the playoff game to the Pack last year by calling passes instead of runs in the last two minutes. I get the whole play to win instead of lose thing but his hubris almost cost them that game (thankfully for him larry fitz’s brilliance spared him) and I can just see it happening again.

  16. AZ rarely runs a 5wr set. Palmer does hold on the the ball too. Ben took beat downs cause that O Line was no good. And as a Cards fan i have seen plenty of No Good O lines. Kevin Kolb took BEAT DOWNS behind a coach who ran 2 TE sets for max protection, so you cannot put all the blame on the HC. Most Pitt fans I talk to cannot stand Tomlin and wanted BA. But hey things happen for a reason. Go Red Birds.

  17. As a Colts fan, most of us KNEW we were letting the wrong guy go when Coach Arians left, but how do you tell the guy who’s coming back from CANCER “Sorry, we’re keeping the other guy”. That’d be a Patriots-style move. Wouldn’t fly here, where people have hearts.

  18. The Steelers rarely make poor personnel moves, but I’d have to say letting Arians go was a mistake.

  19. I was an Arians supporter because he did great things with Ben and the offense. That said, Haley has not only taken Ben to a new level, as evidence of him shattering all kinds of team records but the running game is now an elite part of the team.

  20. Competitors like to compete that’s who they are. If Arians wants to use this as a point of motivation he certainly has a team capable of accomplishing the task.

  21. einherjer00 says:
    Jun 17, 2016 2:37 PM

    greg3117 says:
    Jun 17, 2016 2:03 PM

    Looks like the Colts let the wrong man go.

    =============================

    Of course. I could see the potential for this situation at the time, but there was no way they could fire a recovered Pagano for missing the season due to cancer after how the team rallied around him and so forth. Setting aside all emotion, obviously keeping Arians was the safer football move, but there was too much emotion, and the media would have made it too crazy.
    *******************************
    Oh, I agree 10000% with you guys. It would have been a PR nightmare and it certainly would have been the wrong/inhumane thing to do. But, in hindsight, it appears that Bruce is the better of the two. I think it was handled correctly, even though it wasn’t the best choice for HC.

  22. Everyone that thinks this was a bad move is very, very wrong. Bruce Arians had loads of talent and Big Ben but Bruce Arians was not a very good offensive coordinator. There were countless times we I was left scratching my head on his play calling. He exposed Ben and could never get it done in the redzone.

    Since the Steelers and Arians went separate ways, Arians has flourished as a head coach (maybe where he should have been all along) and the Steelers offense has erupted under Todd Haley.

    This is a classic case of all sides winning, Arians and the Steelers. For those of you who think that isn’t then case, then you’re uhhh…dumb?

  23. Can’t believe my Bears hired the human bolweevil Marc Trestman over Arians. No denying Arians has turned the Cards around. The Cards gain is the Steelers loss, the Colts loss, and every team that didn’t hire him as a head coach including my beloved Bears.

    Respect to Bruce.

  24. The only team that lost in this was the Bears. The Colts only missed the playoffs because something clearly was wrong with their QB last year and otherwise were dominating that division. Also, I think everyone thinks Keim >>> Grigson, and that would have been his GM in Indianapolis. As far as Pittsburgh, it was the owners’ call, and though I’m not a fan of firing people doing a good job, Hayley has gotten that offense to another level after a bumpy start his first year. For the people knocking Tomlin, the Steelers have been rebuilding for 3 eyears, and you don’t even seem to know it because they’ve never finished less than .500 when it should have been worse during a couple of those years. So yeah, everyone won, except the Bears.

  25. Seems to have worked out for both parties. Arians is now a head coach and the steelers have one of the best, if not best offense in the NFL. I am not a steeler fan, but their offense is tough, especially if they can ever have all their pieces on the field at the same time.

  26. theblackrook says:

    “This man gave how many years of his life to that organization.”

    Really? ‘ Gave’ them years? Guess those paychecks he received were returned each week, since he was giving his time and labor to the NFL.. Very sporting of him.

  27. Ok, some fans think Arians put Big Ben in a position to take too many hits.

    How many games did Ben miss last year with injuries? whole games and parts of games?

    Seems like he took a beating regardless if it was Arians calling the plays or Todd Haley.

    The head coach and GM have the right to make changes on their staff. I would say in this case, it is unfortunate that it is made not due to poor performance but age or insecurity that the QB likes the OC more than the rest of the coaches.

    Bruce Arians does give it to the officials on the sideline. But at least as a head coach he hasn’t had to trip anyone.

    As for the Bears, Arians wanted to clean house and hire his own assistant coaches. The Bears did not want to eat the contracts of their remaining assistant coaches so they wanted Arians to keep a few, including standout awful defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. That did not work out well for the Bears, but they saved a few bucks on those contracts and that’s what the fans really care about. No,uh I mean NOT care about.

  28. swagger52 says:
    Jun 17, 2016 3:08 PM
    What does it matter, the Ravens would still own them even with backups with or without Arians.

    Yep, sweeping the Steelers and going 5-11 certainly makes for a successful season in places like Baltimore. Most teams at least aim for making the playoffs.

    Arians was a fine OC, he moved along, and became a fine HC. I am confused, who was the loser in this situation?

  29. Hey clueless commenters…the NFL is a huge business and running a football team is a large business.

    When you need to move on which sometimes means firing or not re-hiring people THAT’S what you do.

    It happened to Bruce. No big deal.

    Bruce made the best of it as did the Steelers.

    There’s nothing to look at here.

  30. This makes it look like it wasn’t Tomlin’s idea to move on without Arians, it sounds like he was even trying to get him more money and got told differently from ownership. As a Steelers fan of long standing, I didn’t want to see Arians go, and I REALLY wasn’t happy to see Haley hired. Why mess with something that was working?

    I have to admit though that it’s worked out pretty well for everyone. The Steelers offense is better than ever and Arians got a head coaching job he would have missed out on if he’d stayed.

    Go Steelers!

  31. It’s dumb to say the Colts let the wrong guy go. They had no choice, because I doubt a man of Arians’ character would have taken the job from Pagano, even if offered. Pagano plucked him out of oblivion. No way Arians stabs him in the back after that overture. And, that doesn’t even take into consideration the whole surviving cancer situation. So, yeah, come on… Arians was always going to be gone.

  32. can u really blame the stealers for being upset about someone bein to close to ben rothlisburger. i mean look what happend the last time he got to close to some one!

  33. This is how it really is:

    The Steelers got great on STEROIDS cheating and beat the crap out of everybody. Some of their main guys went crazy, homeless, brain dead, and died. The ownership just smiled and raked in gazillions, preening at their success while easily discarding the players who made the Rooney’s success possible.

    So when a coach like Arians dares to speak out and not adhere to the” StepenFetchit” behavior the Rooneys demand of their servants, well you get fired and thrown to the curb as they did to Arians.

    As for Arians and the Cards, Its ALL or NOTHING, baby!!! (and more likely it will be “nothing” because “nothing” in the crazy NFL is predictable)

  34. Most NFL coaches make better coordinators than head coaches, but Arians’ makes a much better head coach than a coordinator. Weird.

  35. I don’t understand when people say “it’s been 4 years, let it go.” It was an interview, they asked him a question and he answered it truthfully. It’s not like Arians brought it up out of nowhere just to complain.

  36. You steelers are dumb as hell if you think Arians was the one who get Ben hurt. Haley is basically running the same style that Arians is running. The difference is now the steelers have invested in the offensive line and have one of the best guards to ever play the game as there o line coach. Steelers fans and ownership seem to think it’s the 1970s and wanted to run the ball as such. You let the 2nd best coach in the league (Bill is 1st and always will) walk and don’t be surprised if he is in the super bowl this season.

  37. Living well is the best revenge. I hope the league has his talents and razor sharp hat fashion on display for many years to come.

  38. as a life long Steelers fan I have never been happy with what happend to Bruce, Bruce was an amazing OC and helped Big Ben so much, however this did open new doors for Bruce.

  39. well steelers fans after almost a decade the jury is still out, who is the better hire tomlin or whisenhunt?

  40. Some “truths” are, people are completely uninformed and let hatred cloud their vision.

  41. NFLexpert says:
    Jun 17, 2016 2:50 PM
    Steelers would have been to 2-3 more SB’s with Bruce.

    *******************************************************************************

    Because they would have bubble-screened their way to one championship after another?

  42. I agree that the way Arians was let go was poor. He deserved better. However, I was happy he was let go. His play calling had become very predictable, and he wasn’t very good at making adjustments during the game. I remember one game that the Browns sacked Ben 8 times. He was getting killed! Still kept running the empty backfield and Ben kept getting run over time after time. I was happy Ben survived! How stupid (or insane) to think they could keep running the same formation and get a different result!

  43. I think Arians is a good coach, but I love seeing him lose because he is always yelling at the officials for something.

  44. It always amazes me that steelr fans think they know something about FB. Instead of being towel wavers that think the whole team belongs in the HOF.

    1rst of all, Arians has a better team. With an inferior QB.

    2nd, if it’s Arian’s fault BB was hit so much, despite holding the ball too long to make his bailout plays, because he barely knows the playbook, why did the draft look like this?

    Pouncey: 1rst rnd
    DeCastro and Adams 1 @ 2 the next year.

    Ever think they didn’t have any players?

    Looking forward to October.

  45. theblackrook says:
    Jun 17, 2016 2:24 PM
    i love how people say it’s been x amount of years let it go. Dude, just shut up. This man gave how many years of his life to that organization. You can say it’s money, you can say it’s a business… but dedicated men feel something for that kind of job. If you think that it’s just business or money then you ain’t human and you don’t know people.
    ——————————

    Let’s be clear, that kind of position making 6-7 figures a year is not giving years of your life to an organization. It’s not like he was depending on a pention or retirement. I’m sure if a HC position came up for him while he was there, he would have taken it and left all those years behind with the team looking for a replacement. Have perspective.

  46. The funny thing is, BA probably would have got to at least a SB with Pitt had he stayed and Tomlin left. Tomlin is a good coach but BA is an Offensive GENIUS and a Damn good if not better HC than Tomlin…

  47. Real Steelers fans were dancing in the streets when Arians was let go. A year to late for most of us. Great for him he has some success while gone happy for him. Even happier he is not with the Steelers.

  48. Don Shula, Tom Landry, George Seifert, Joe Gibbs, and other super bowl winning coaches were shown the door. I’m having a hard time feeling too much sympathy for Bruce. It’s the nature of the business.

  49. Ben still gets hit, and still gets injured, could it be Ben’s fault not a dude that calls the plays…

    Arians has done more then Big Injury prone Ben since then

  50. I think the change to Haley worked out better than most thought it would for Pittsburgh, including me.

    Arians basically eliminated the fullback from the Steelers offense, and I for one didn’t think that worked out very well. The ground game suffered and specifically suffered in short yardage situations. I thought it hurt pass protection sometimes as well. Last year the Steelers carried TWO fullbacks, including rookie special teams monster Roosevelt Nix, and the ground game under Haley is much improved.

    Then there’s the addition of Mike Munchak as well. Say what you want about Haley, but he gave up personal power over the offense to make the team better. Arians might not have done that. Munchak has been huge in the development of the Pittsburgh offensive line and the Steelers have become a much more physical offense over all. I’m happy with the way things worked out for everybody.

    Go Steelers!

  51. I’m an Arians fan and a Colts fan. I thought he did an excellent job as the Colts offensive coordinator and I’m glad for his success in Arizona. I do want to say Florio makes a common media mistake. Arians’ contract with the Steelers was over. He was not fired, he just was not rehired. You can criticize the circumstances of that decision, but you can’t call it something it was not.

  52. Arians is a very good coach, but his style of offense was not going to extend Ben’s career. It is true that Ben continues to get hurt even though Haley’s offense generally calls for Ben to get rid of the ball sooner, the reason Arians was let go was an attempt to protect the franchise quarterback. Arguments can be made whether that worked out as planned, but that is the reason the Steelers moved on.

    I really like the Todd Haley offense that replaced it – and meanwhile in Arizona – Arian’s vertical offense continues to get his quarterbacks injured. Constantly.

  53. Kinda smacks when the cowboys hung Phillips out to dry… in order to keep their red headed love puppet and as it turns out…

    Phillips is one helluva coach… Leave it to Al Davis Jr and crew to screw that up and keep the wrong guy… he’s been doing it for 21 years now…

  54. olgib says:

    I really like the Todd Haley offense that replaced it – and meanwhile in Arizona – Arian’s vertical offense continues to get his quarterbacks injured. Constantly.
    =============

    Hey kiddo, Carson played the entire season in 2013 and 2015. He has one injury in 2014, and suddenly it’s a “constant” problem. Try watching the games sometime.

  55. As a fan, I’m also very appreciative of what Arians
    brought to the Steelers. Very good OC and now a
    top notch Head coach. Happy he has found further
    success and wish him well.

    I’ m a bit confused as to why Arians feels betrayed,
    especially by Tomlin of all people. Even back then
    it was well known that Tomlin wanted Arians back
    and even went to bat for him. Tomlin wanted him back,
    Ben wanted him back, management pushed him to retire.

    This decision not to ‘re-up his contract’
    came from above. Probable reason was for neglecting
    to develop the run more. This was following the edict
    from the Rooneys, that they wanted a more balanced
    offense, and for Ben to take less hits.
    Tomlin didn’t fire him.

    To illustrate this further, Tomlin has maintained
    remarkable stability with regards to his coaching
    staff, over his 10 yr tenure. Often bringing back
    the entire coaching team back, as he has done again
    this year.

    I’m glad Bruce is doing well in the desert, but I’m
    even more happy that Haley has taken this offense
    to the next level. Both men are where they were
    meant to be.

    Biggest losers, … the Bears.
    How do you pass up hiring the Coach of the Year
    when you got nothing? That should have been the
    big story, not this Steelers afterthought.

  56. I can’t believe we messed this up to. When are we gonna learn that if it aint fixed don’t break it. Gonna be a long season. These rebuilding years are murder.

  57. It wasn’t just “non-Steelers fans” who weren’t fooled by the ‘retirement’ terminology. Steelers fans weren’t fooled either. Many fans wanted Arians out and were happy to see him go.

    Ben was younger then and Arians’ was happy to just let him play a loose, improvised style of football that got him beat up and nearly crippled. They won a Super Bowl against the Cardinals on his watch but they also lost one to the Packers and were famously ‘Tebowed’ by the Broncos in a playoff loss with him calling the plays.

    The Steelers had to think about the future for their franchise quarterback. Arians would interject his predictable bubble screens to relieve the punishment occasionally, but it was clear to everyone that his coaching style, if you want to call it that, needed to be replaced by a more sound and dependable system. Since his departure, the Steelers now have arguably the top offense in the league.

  58. Arians is a good HC. It will take a few more seasons to evaluate him in totality. The Steelers under Cowher were a dirty team. Cowher had his players go for Carson Palmer’s knees in the playoff game against Cincinnati a few years ago. Under Tomlin the Steelers continue a legacy of late hits, cheap shots and personal fouls. The media chooses to “overlook” the dirty play of the Steelers. Someone should interview Cowher and ask him to explain the hit on Palmer inthat playoff game. Cowher would offer that phony smile of his and make a joke of it.

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