Big Ben's sit-down is next big 'tweak'

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Two days to go. Two days and January finally is over. Two days and maybe the Steelers can get back to some sense of normalcy after enduring one of their roughest months in a long time.

Let's review how bad January has been:

• The Steelers lose in overtime in the first round of the playoffs to the underdog Denver Broncos by allowing Tim Tebow -- the worst quarterback in the NFL -- to throw for 316 yards and two touchdowns.

• Coach Mike Tomlin tells the media during his season-ending news conference that he anticipates his coaching staff will return for the 2012 season and, according to the Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac, tells offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on multiple occasions that he wants him back.

• Team president Art Rooney II tells the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette that he thinks quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to "tweak" his game a bit in order to get hit less and take fewer sacks.

• The Steelers, in a curious, misguided and failed attempt at deception, announce Arians is retiring. He later said he was pushed out, apparently by Rooney over Tomlin's wishes. Rooney, coming clean just a bit with Steelers.com, says it was "time for a change." Arians isn't out of work long, accepting the offensive coordinator's job Saturday with the Indianapolis Colts.

• Roethlisberger isn't happy with losing Arians as his coordinator and says he will meet with Rooney to find out what direction he wants the offense to go.

• An ESPN report Sunday says linebackers coach Keith Butler has accepted the defensive coordinator's position with the Colts. Butler tells the Post-Gazette he will interview with the Colts Tuesday, but it is not a done deal. It's long been believed Butler would replace long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, 74, when LeBeau retires.

Whew.

I'm thinking Roethlisberger has the best plan.

Wouldn't we all like to go see Rooney and find out what the heck is going on?

Until we hear more from Rooney and anything at all from Tomlin, who has been unavailable for comment as all of this has been going down, we are left with three conclusions:

• Rooney and Tomlin need to do a better job communicating. The way Arians' departure was handled embarrassed the organization. It also emasculated Tomlin as coach.

• Roethlisberger has every right to approach Rooney for a meeting. Clearly, Rooney wasn't happy with the offense this season. Roethlisberger is its on-field leader. It's his obligation to find out exactly what the boss wants.

• LeBeau had better not be planning to retire any time soon.

Not surprisingly, Roethlisberger's comments at the Pro Bowl have drawn the most response. He has been criticized for everything from being too close to Arians to having too much say in the offense to being disrespectful for saying he wants to meet with Rooney instead of following the chain of command and sitting down with Tomlin first.

All of it is nonsense.

Roethlisberger, just like any franchise quarterback, needs to be able to work closely with his offensive coordinator. Naturally, he was disappointed to lose Arians. "We kind of felt like we were really close to being great," Roethlisberger said of the team's offense. As for those who say Roethlisberger needs a boss, not a friend, he has a boss -- Tomlin -- although Tomlin seems a little weaker than he did before Rooney stepped in and pushed out Arians.

Roethlisberger should have a big say in the offense. The Steelers have invested $102 million in him. The offense will be most effective if it runs plays that make him comfortable. Do you really believe the New England Patriots run plays that Tom Brady doesn't like? Or that the New York Giants run plays that Eli Manning doesn't like? There's just no way.

Like many people, Roethlisberger is afraid of change. That's why it's believed he has pushed or will push for Steelers quarterback coach Randy Fichtner to replace Arians. Roethlisberger isn't thrilled by the possibility of learning a new offense with new terminology, but, if he must, he will. He's a professional. He also is an amazing competitor. He just wants to win.

As for approaching Rooney, Roethlisberger is anything but uppity for wanting to do it. It was Rooney, you might remember, who talked publicly about the need for Roethlisberger to "tweak" his game before he spoke to Roethlisberger about it. You would think Rooney would want to make clear what he wants to Roethlisberger.

It's not as if Rooney is unapproachable. He might be the most approachable owner in pro sports. Like his father, Dan, before him, he's at the Steelers' South Side headquarters every day. He stands in the lunch line in the team cafeteria. He watches much of practice. He wants to have a relationship with his players. It's perfectly normal for Roethlisberger to walk into his office.

And that chain of command thing?

Presumably, Tomlin will sit in on the Roethlisberger-Rooney meeting.

Then again, it still is January, isn't it?

The bizarre way the Steelers are operating this month, it's probably not wise to presume anything.


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com . Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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