Remembering Bruce Arians: 2004 - 2011

" I appreciate his efforts over the past five years as the team’s offensive coordinator and for helping lead our offense to new heights during his time with the Steelers. I am grateful to Bruce for contributing to our success and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement." - Mike Tomlin

The Bruce Arians era of Pittsburgh Steeler offensive football is now [finally] over. However, Bruce has had a much more glorified career than most Steeler fans know and understand. Much maligned in Pittsburgh over the last few years as the Steelers were "inconsistent offensively", without a doubt Bruce left his mark on the NFL throughout his extensive coaching career.

No one will remember Bruce being the Quarterbacks coach for a rookie QB named Peyton Manning in his first three years, shattering every rookie QB record, and then in his final season coaching 3rd year Peyton would he smash the franchise record for passing yardage and touchdowns.

No one will remember Bruce being the last Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator to get the Browns to the Playoffs in 2002, even with a QB by the name of Tim Couch running the offense. That was one of only two times in the last 16 years that the Browns have had a winning season and a top 20 offense.

A few Steeler fans who paid close attention in the early 2000's will know that Bruce Arians was a Bill Cowher hiring in 2004 as a Wide Receivers coach, to work under Cowher and 1st year offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, for a team coming off a 2003 season that saw the team go 6-10.

2004: Wide Receivers Coach

Bruce Arians was part of the Offensive staff that helped the Steelers to a 15-1 record with a rookie 1st round quarterback. Arians as the Wide Receivers coach helped take Hines Ward to his fourth consecutive 1000yd season despite the offense shedding nearly 600 passing yards off from the previous season. It also saw Plaxico Burress average 20 yards per catch in the 11 games he played in, as well as making Antwaan Randle El a more focal receiver, grabbing in a career high 600+ yards. All in all a very successful season from a near complete revamp of the offensive staff.

2005: Wide Receivers Coach

Bruce Arians was still the Wide Receivers coach in the championship year of 2005, a year in which the Steelers overcame the "tough loss on offense" of Plaxico Burress departing the Steelers for the bright lights of New York. His "replacement" was Cedrick Wilson who had came over from the 49ers, and OC Whiz also had a new 1st round Tight End in Heath Miller to play with also. In another sub-3000 yard passing season by the Steelers, Arians again had his receivers on point, Hines Ward posting a high 900 yard receiving season, but also redeveloping his touchdown abilities with 11, +7 from the previous season. Randle El had a second straight solid season with 550+ yards and little known Cedrick Wilson became a big play threat in limited action posting a 17.3 yards per catch average, up 5 ypc from his previous career averages. The first of three Superbowl teams Bruce Arians would be a part of.

2006: Wide Receivers Coach

In what would be a rough hangover year for the Steelers following the success of 2005, the offense would still have a great year (statistically). The Steelers offense featured in the top 10 (7) for the first time in four years, and 2006 was the year of some great production from Arians and his receiving corps. Ward had his usual 900+ yard season, Cedrick Wilson had 500, and in the loss of Randle El, Arians came through with a couple youngsters. 1st round rookie Santonio Holmes announced his place in the NFL with 800+ yards at 17ypc, and second year undrafted free agent Nate Washington came through 600+ yards at almost 18ypc after a year on the practice squad.

2007: Offensive Coordinator

2007 saw big changes in the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Bill Cowher retired. OC Ken Whisenhunt departed to coach the Arizona Cardinals, and took Offensive Line coach Russ Grimm with him. In came a little known Defensive Coordinator by the name of Mike Tomlin to be Head Coach, and Bruce Arians was rewarded for the progress of his Wide Receivers over the last few years, and was named Offensive Coordinator.

Injuries ultimately derailed the Steelers late in the year, but you had a feeling this new look Pittsburgh team was one of the most exciting in years.

The Offense flourished under Bruce Arians, coming 9th in the league in scoring, and much of the success started with a rejuvenated Ben Roethlisberger, after a season in 2006 when he threw 18tds to 23 interceptions, he well and truly broke out with a 32 touchdown to just 11 interception season, making his first pro bowl. Willie Parker was the NFLs rushing leader until he broke his leg late in the season against the Rams, and Santonio Holmes became one of the leagues up and coming stars with 900+ yards and 8 TDs at a rate of 18 ypc.

The Steelers scored 393 points, the most in 12 years.

2008: Offensive Coordinator

After a "what if" season, 2008 had Steeler fans excited, and the team delivered, despite the struggles that Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians would face, and it all started up front. The 2008 version of the Offensive Line featured four new starters to the Offensive Line. Lack of continuity, youth, whatever you want to label it as, the line flat out struggled to protect Ben and open holes in the running game. It also didnt help Bruce much that 1st round running back Rashard Mendenhall was lost a quarter of the way through the season and starter Willie Parker was not his old self after the broken leg of 2007.

The line featured former RT Max Starks, playing LT for the first full season after a year on the bench, new starting LG Chris Kemoeatu attempting to fill the monster shoes of Alan Faneca, new C Justin Hartwig taking over the horrible Sean Mahan, and finally an undrafted rookie in Darnell Stapleton, thrown in the deep end after injuries to Kendall Simmons took its toll. A lot of changes and continuity to overcome.

The Steelers finished 20th in scoring and 22nd in yards, despite finishing 12-4 on the year - good for the #2 seed in the AFC, thanks to one of the more dominant defensive performances in NFL history.

Superbowl XLIII started so well for the Steelers offense. They carved out points on their first two offensive drives, going up 10-0. The next drive saw a penalty erase a large gain before punting, and the next a tipped pass intercepted, before going into the half 17-7. The Steelers would score 3 points on their only drive of the 3rd quarter. Then after a 4th quarter defensive collapse, the Offense produced by far the highlight of Bruce Arians' tenure in Pittsburgh, an 8 play - 88 yard touchdown drive to win the game. Big Ben was 5 of 7 for 84 yards and one of the most memorable touchdowns in NFL history. In other words, Bruce's offense, and his playcalling, came up huge when it mattered the most.

2009: Offensive Coordinator

2009 was another Superbowl hangover year for the Steelers. Injuries to the defensive side of the ball again crippled the team much the way it did in 2006. However, the Offense returned to prominence, finishing 12th in points scored and 7th in yardage.

Under Bruce Arians, Ben Roethlisberger became the first Steelers Quarterback to throw for over 4000 yards, as well as 26 TDs to just 12 interceptions (despite being sacked 50 times), second year RB Rashard Mendenhall broke out for 1100 yards and both Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes would have monster seasons with 1100/1200 yards respectively. First year receiver Mike Wallace posted 750 yards at 19 ypc and even TE Heath Miller got going with a career high 789 yards. The Offense had one of its finest seasons with Bruce Arians, however the team record did not reflect this, finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs.

2010: Offensive Coordinator

With a healthy defense again in 2010, expectations were high for the Steelers, and the offense, despite the stunning trade of Superbowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes to the Jets. The wish was to just get through the first four games (minus Big Ben due to suspension) at .500 and then look to open the floodgates from then on. The response was better, 3-1 without Ben and then 9-3 with him to finish the season 12-4 with the #2 seed once again.

The offense was on song again in 2010, Big Ben averaged 250 yards per game and threw just 5 interceptions, Mendenhall ran for 1200 with 13 touchdowns, and second year man Mike Wallace dominated the single coverages he saw with 1200 yards and 10 touchdowns at more than 21 yards per catch.

The offense finished 12th in points and 14th in yardage. Although the Steelers season culminated in a loss to the Green Bay Packers in Superbowl XLV, where the offense started slow and simply ran out of time after mounting a heroic comeback.

Not too much point reflecting on the most recent season, with the heartbreaking loss to the Broncos still fresh in our minds. Bruce Arians' tenure in Pittsburgh ends much to the delite of some fans over his non usage of a fullback, inconsistent and "predictable" play calling as well and interesting choices on third down.

The "drop off" in Offensive performance statisically from Whiz was nearly non-existent. Ken Whisenhunt in his three years (2004-2006) as Offensive Coordinator outscored opposing offenses by an average of 96.6 points per year, or by 6 points per game, and averaged 23.3 points per game. Bruce Arians outscored opposing offenses by an average of 106.6 per year, or 6.6 points per game, and averaged 22.6 points per game, and he did it with a much worse Offensive Line leading the charge.

What the fans cannot argue is this. The guy knew offensive football. He was Peyton Manning's first Quarterbacks Coach in the NFL. He had a winning season with Tim Couch at Quarterback. He has also proven an outstanding coach of Wide Receivers.

Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Brown, Antwaan Randle El have all excelled under Bruce Arians, and if you look back to his Cleveland days as OC, you also see names like Kevin Johnson, Quincy Morgan and Dennis Northcutt having highly productive seasons with Bruce Arians, and failing without him.

It is almost bittersweet with Bruce Arians departing. Whilst one part of me is excited for some new blood, the other part of me wonders how good this offense of Bruce's may have been with an Offensive Line with the talent of the 2005 squad.

So long Bruce, enjoy retirement. You have two Superbowl rings on your hand and a lot of good memories in this Steeler fans head.

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