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Big Ben: Bruce Arians to call Steelers-Browns opener

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There will be no shortage of storylines leading up to the Steelers' regular-season opener versus the division-rival Browns.

Ben Roethlisberger revealed Thursday, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that former Cardinals coach and new CBS game analyst Bruce Arians is slated to broadcast Pittsburgh's Week 1 matchup at Cleveland. CBS did not confirm the assignment to the Post-Gazette.

"Interesting to say the least," Roethlisberger offered.

Why so interesting?

Arians got his start as an NFL play-calling savant with the 2001-2003 Browns. In fact, he called the shots in the most memorable game of longstanding backup quarterback Kelly Holcomb's career, a 36-33 shootout loss during a snowy Pittsburgh afternoon in Cleveland's last postseason appearance.

"This journeyman quarterback was transformed into a veritable Hall of Famer," Arians said of Holcomb's 429-yard performance. "All because he had spent years preparing for the moment."

When Browns coach Butch Davis was fired, Arians crossed the Ohio border to Pittsburgh, where he was soon "tethered at the hip" with a young Roethlisberger.

The above quotes are courtesy of Arians' 2017 biography with Lars Anderson, The Quarterback Whisperer. In those pages, Arians described his acrimonious Steelers departure after falling to Tim Tebow and the Broncos in the 2011 playoffs.

Head coach Mike Tomlin had originally vowed to petition management for an Arians raise that offseason. Instead, Tomlin ended up calling with the regrettable news that there was no contract, period. Although Arians wasn't technically fired, that's the way he remembers it.

"Mike asked me to come to Pittsburgh so we could talk," Arians said. "I told him hell no and I told him not to fly to Georgia to see me. I was hot, man. I was pissed."

Yet to gain a strong NFL foothold as a bit of coaching iconoclast, Arians felt betrayed at the time.

"The biggest thing for me is loyalty," Arians explained "... If you're coaching for me you're family, and that's not how I treat my family."

Arians acknowledged that he was bitter for a long time about being "fired." He would come to realize, however, that he would not have had the opportunity to coach Andrew Luck in Indianapolis or bolster his reputation as a preeminent leader and offensive mind with the Cardinals if he hadn't been set free by Tomlin and the Steelers.

Who ended up replacing Arians as Roethlisberger's coordinator? That would be Todd Haley, another effective yet beleaguered Pittsburgh play-caller who was also allowed to walk though technically not fired by Tomlin and the Steelers in January.

As luck would have it, Haley is poised to enter that season-opening clash with total autonomy over Hue Jackson's offense, matching wits with his former quarterback.

"I'm sure the NFL had a little something to do about that -- B.A., Todd, making it the first game of the year," Roethlisberger said.

Here's hoping that showdown produces yet another Pittsburgh-Cleveland shootout, bringing a smile to Arians lips as he shoots from the hip with enough zingers to zap his former boss on one sideline and his Steelers successor on the other.

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