ShareThis Page

Starkey: Steelers' power struggle fascinates

| Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012

The Steelers' clumsy coordinator shuffle clearly was aimed at making one man a lot less comfortable.

The quarterback.

That is what makes this drama so compelling.

How does Ben Roethlisberger respond to getting slapped around a little• The organization that granted him nearly unlimited power to play as he saw fit -- heck, to play when he saw fit after his ankle injury -- is trying to reclaim a portion of said power.

And there is no delicate way to do that.

So get your popcorn ready. It's either going to work to spectacular results or blow up in their faces.

Applaud the high-risk, high-reward philosophy that has often served the Steelers well. Question their methods. Enjoy the cabaret.

In hindsight, one can see the power-strip process beginning the day after the loss in Denver, when coach Mike Tomlin was asked how much say Roethlisberger would have in whether coordinator Bruce Arians was retained.

"None," Tomlin said, sharply.

Days later, team president Art Rooney II said he'd like to see Roethlisberger "tweak" his game.

The Steelers then "shocked" Roethlisberger -- his word, which he has used repeatedly -- by firing his friend Arians in the most insulting way imaginable.

They tried to pass off the move as a "retirement," but before Arians could collect his gold watch, he was working again -- now as the Indianapolis Colts' offensive coordinator.

Kardashian-Humphries marriage: 72 days.

Arians retirement: eight days.

Steelers' silence: priceless.

We still don't know for sure who orchestrated Arians' ouster. The Steelers have not seen fit to clear up the confusion.

Maybe Rooney and Tomlin were more up front about it with Roethlisberger than they have been with the public. The way things are going, though, you have to wonder if they've even told him yet.

Tomlin didn't exactly find a wallflower to replace Arians, either.

Quite the opposite: He brought in Haley's comet.

And you don't think this organization wanted to rock Ben's world?

I like hard-core Todd Haley's resume. He has been successful using different approaches. Lots of pass. Lots of run. He also isn't afraid to get in players' faces, and elite ones such as Larry Fitzgerald swear by him (and often swore at him).

But that doesn't mean this will be a slam dunk. There is no predicting the result when massive egos collide.

For now, Roethlisberger and Haley will apparently spend some time marking their territory.

Haley, for example, did not seek out Roethlisberger upon showing up at Steelers headquarters. Here's hoping they meet sometime before the season opener.

Roethlisberger upstaged Haley's introductory news conference Thursday by choosing an hour earlier to give his first extended interview since the Arians firing.

It really is great theatre.

It's a tightrope walk for the Steelers, too, because we're talking about the meal ticket here.

The Steelers need Roethlisberger way more than he needs them.

Remember, Roethlisberger is the main reason this franchise snapped its quarter-century Super Bowl drought. It had gone 25 years without a championship-level quarterback.

He also is the primary reason Tomlin has become a top-tier NFL coach making millions of dollars.

Everybody knows it's a quarterbacks league. Without one, a coach is doomed. With a great one, he almost can't help but thrive. Just ask Ken Whisenhunt.

And be sure of this: Roethlisberger will be the reason Haley does -- or does not -- become a head coach again.

It all depends on how this marriage works out.

I assume Haley is smart enough to be open to the ad-lib style that makes Roethlisberger unique. But the Steelers also believe Ben needs to play a tamer, smarter game. They want him to stay upright for the next several years (blockers, anyone?). They want him to get rid of the ball faster.

That is understandable. Commendable, even.

Was this the right way to go about it?

Time will tell. It always does.

Get your popcorn ready.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.