All season long I've been a supporter of Bruce Arians and tried to explain to every why he shouldn't be fired, but after forcing myself to re-watch that game last night (and somehow hoping for a different outcome) I'm finally ready to stop defending the man. There are certain plays that we all noticed that raised some eyebrows such as the obvious conservative play calling on the final Steelers' drive (I'm not counting the one play sack and fumble as a drive), and others such as twice throwing fades to back of the end zone. I've never been a big fan of the fade route but it seems like a horrible route to call when you don't have a big receiver. There was one thing that really burns me when I watch this team though, and that is their love for running the ball on first down. The Steelers ran the ball 26 times total in the game, but 15 of those runs were on a first down (58%). Those 15 runs were almost half of all first down play calls (32 first down situations). Those numbers wouldn't be high in a normal game but when you consider that this team was playing from a considerable deficit for over half the game, it's pretty amazing. Here are some the drives broken down:
Drives that resulted in a TD: 17 first down situations: 4 runs, 13 passes (or attempted passes)
Drives 4 through 7 (stretched from 12:25 in the 2Q to 9:24 3Q): 10 first down situations: 8 runs, 2 passes (for what it's worth those drives resulted in INT, INT, Punt, INT, FG)
Just for the naysayers out there: They were more effective running the ball on first down that any other down as they totaled 31 yards on the 15 runs (2.1 avg) which is a better than the 12 yards on 11 carries (1.1 avg) that they had outside of first down carries. Most of the first down yardage was gained on the first three first down carries by Davenport though that totaled 21 yards.
Conclusion: Basically the running game was nonexistent and Arians shouldn't be blamed for complete lack of success in that area, but I still think he could have done of better job of mixing in the run on other downs, especially considering the situations that his offense was in for much the game. He has done some really good things this year and I think he's had a large part in the growth and development of Ben this year but at the same time, I think this team can do better.
If there are any still Arians supporters out there, try and talk some sense into the rest of us, why should he stay? Or what are other play calls that burn you about this game or other games throughout the season?