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Insider Only THURSDAY’S DAILY FIVE; Is Art Rooney II pushing Bruce Arians out the door?


*Rumblings, musings and opinions*
1. ROONEY PUSHING ARIANS OUT?: There were strong indications days after the 2009 regular season that Art Rooney II was on the verge of firing offensive coordinator Bruce Arians before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stepped in, playing a big part in keeping Arians in place as offensive coordinator.
This time around, Roethlisberger’s input might not matter. Although Mike Tomlin wants Arians back, there is strong indications that Arians will not return in 2012, Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette reports.
Based on the information I’ve gathered, it’s because of a push from ownership who have not always been strong supporters of Arians.
Rooney is not pleased with the Steelers being ranked No. 21 in scoring and there’s a feeling from some members of the front office that a change is needed.
We’ve been down this road before with Arians but if he is out, regardless of how the Steelers spin it, it’s a situation of Arians being pushed out, sources say.
Rooney this week not only expressed his displeasure with the Steelers being pretty much a “yardage offense” this season, Rooney also hinted that he’s looking for Roethlisberger to tweak his game.
“I don’t think we should want or expect a dramatic change in Ben. ‘A little bit’ is probably the key phrase,” Rooney told Bob Labriola of “He has been pretty darn successful in a lot of what he does. He’s different from other quarterbacks. We don’t want or expect dramatic changes in Ben. We need him to be healthy. We need him to continue to be healthy. He is turning 30. Taking fewer sacks, fewer risks here and there is something he needs to think about. But not a dramatic change.”
2. RANDY FICHTNER LEADING IN-HOUSE CANDIDATE: If Arians is out the door, quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner emerges as the Steelers leading in-house candidate to replace Arians. Fichtner has a great relationship with Roethlisberger and had been regarded as the top candidate along with running backs coach Kirby Wilson last season when Arians was considering retirement. Unfortunately, Wilson is fighting for his life right now and out of the picture. If the Steelers don’t look to Fichtner, they will hire from outside the organization for the first time since 1999 when they hired Kevin Gilbride.
3. WOULD CHANGE IMPACT HINES FUTURE WITH TEAM? My information remains consistent from last week in that the Steelers coaching staff does not want Hines Ward back and their wishlist is resigning Jerricho Cotchery and drafting or developing another young wide receiver. In the way of that remains ownership as there continues to be speculation that a Jerome Bettis type of deal (2005 season), 1 year – $1 million will be pushed from ownership but as I mentioned last week this is a totally different situation.
At that time, Bettis was the Steelers No. 2 running back and ended the 2004 season as their No. 1 running back and played a big role on a 15-1 team, rushing for 941 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns.
Ward had no role close to that with the Steelers in the second half of this season and barely got on the field against Denver.
I just don’t see a new offensive coordinator coming in and changing what Mike Tomlin and others feel about Ward’s ability to play at this point.
4. COOKE HAS CHANGED FOR THE GOOD BUT… Scott Burnside of ESPN has written a good feature on Matt Cooke in how Cooke has changed for the good. Burnside writes, “In a season that has seen a legion of top players felled by injury and the league’s disciplinary machine yet again fall into disrepair after a promising start, the league’s most infamous player goes about his business in relative anonymity.
That’s assuming, of course, that a player as polarizing as Matt Cooke can ever really become anonymous.
Scott Hartnell’s off-hand jab at Cooke during HBO’s recent “24/7” documentary pretty much sums it up for many players and fans: “You’re the dirtiest player in the league. Good job.” But whether you loathe him or not, if more players were like Cooke there would be less players, well, like him.
Cooke has proven with his actions that it is possible for players to change their approach to the game to make the game safer. He is a shining example that thoughtfulness can actually win out over the heat-of-the-moment desire to absolutely destroy an opponent no matter the ramifications, ” Burnside wrote.
There’s no denying that Cooke has changed for the good but to me who covers the team on a daily basis, from an on-ice standpoint, he’s become an ordinary player with a $1.8 million cap hit who passes up too many checks and needs to play with more of an edge (within the rules) as one scout mentioned early last week.
5. WASTED MONEY ON MARGINAL PLAYERS: It’s really no wonder so many small market teams struggle to be competitive on a year to year basis. The Pirates having to dish out big increases to the likes of Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton this week and the same with Garrett Jones soon, are prime examples of money being wasted on marginal players due to the system.
After a 2-12 season with a 7.57 ERA in 2010, Charlie Morton rebounded in 2011 with a 10-10 record and a respectable 3.83 ERA. The 28 year old made $441,000 in 2011 and in an ideal situation, Morton would have to prove himself again before seeing a huge spike in salary but the arbitration system dictated Morton receiving a huge raise of possibly $3 million per season and the Pirates and Morton settled before hand, avoiding arbitration and agreeing to a one year, $2.445 million deal.
Jeff Karstens, 29, regarded as a borderline major league starter for most of his career, went 3-10 in 2010 with a 4.92 ERA and prior to 2011 season had never won more than 4 games in a season.
Karstens like Morton put together a respectable season, going 9-9 with an impressive 3.38 ERA. Like Morton, the system dictated a big increase in salary for Karstens and Karstens received a $2 million jump in salary, settling with the Pirates on a one year, $3.1 million deal.
With Karstens and Morton, few would be surprised if either plummeted in 2012.
The Pirates will also be forced to overpay Garrett Jones in the coming weeks. Jones a .243 hitter last season who was a part time player at times,  made $455,500 in 2011 and will receive close to a $2 million raise in salary. Jones has asked for $2.5 million, while the Pirates have submitted a salary of $2.25 million.
As good as it is to see the Pirates spending some of Bob Nutting’s money, it’s a shame that the system forces teams to overpay marginal players.
Where the Pirates should be applauded for is stepping up and rewarding closer Joel Hanrahan with a deserved deal, agreeing to a one year, $4.1 million deal with Hanrahan on Monday. Unlike the others, Hanrahan deserved a big bump in salary after making $1.4 million in 2011. Hanrahan can also earn $50,000 in performance bonuses based on games finished: $10,000 each for 40 and 45 and $15,000 apiece for 50 and 60.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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