How many times did people say it during Bruce Arians' five-year tenure as the Steelers offensive coordinator? "The offense just isn't efficient enough."
Of course, there were several other things said about a man who wasn't very popular among the fans, this despite having a plethora of 1000-yard receivers, two 1000-yard running backs and a franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger who topped the 4,000 yard mark twice under Arians' watch. But, regardless of how productive his offense was, you were often left with the feeling the unit could have lit the scoreboard up just a little bit more over the course of that half-decade. For example, while 27 or 28 points per game seemed attainable, you'd analyze the data at the end of a season and see 23.4 as the actual number.
During Mike Tomlin's early years as head coach, how often did the Steelers seem to have a team on the ropes, only to let it get back in the game, thanks to either an inability to score touchdowns in the red zone, costly offensive penalties or critical turnovers?
Only the worst Arians critic would fail to acknowledge that the offensive line was mostly underwhelming during his term but, nevertheless, the buck eventually stopped with the OC at the end of the 2011 season and he was relieved of his duties.
Regardless of what you think of Arians, he's a good man and a quality coach, and he eventually found himself in Arizona as the head coach of the Cardinals. After leading his team to the playoffs one year ago, Arians brought a 4-1 squad into Heinz Field on Sunday that was averaging a whopping 38 points a game. You talk about an efficient offense. With weapons such as quarterback Carson Palmer and veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald leading the way, Arizona looked downright unstoppable through five weeks.
And during the first half of Sunday's game against the Steelers, Arizona was dominant on both offense and defense. As for that offense, it totaled 232 yards to Pittsburgh's 84. Mike Vick, the Steelers' backup quarterback, had a grand total of six passing yards in the first half, as he looked even more ineffective than he did for the majority of the game against the Chargers six days earlier on Monday Night Football.
Unfortunately for Arizona, instead of building a commanding lead, their margin was just 10-3 at the end of the first half. Despite the dominance, the Cardinals kept shooting themselves in the foot with costly mistakes over the first two quarters. There was the unnecessary roughness foul on lineman Bobby Massie on the first series that knocked the offense out of field-goal range. With a chance to expand a 7-0 lead, Lawrence Timmons thwarted Arizona's third drive of the game with an interception. The Cardinals' next offensive series ended with a missed 47-yard field goal by kicker Chandler Catanzaro that would have given them a 10-0 lead.
Instead of putting their foot on Pittsburgh's throat and choking the life out of a team that was clearly ripe for the picking, the Cardinals let the Steelers hang around until midway through the third quarter when quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Martavis Bryant, unproven kicker Chris Boswell and a pleasantly surprising defense teamed up to roll right by Arizona for a 25-13 victory.
All in all, the Cardinals won the yardage battle, 469-310, and the first-down battle, 21-14. But Pittsburgh won the turnover battle, 3-0, and only had 48 penalty yards to 111 for the road team.
If this all sounds familiar, that's because it is, at least as far as Arians' association with the Steelers is concerned. Heck, for good measure, Jones even pulled a Tim Tebow and had the best day of his career in Arians' first encounter with the Steelers since parting ways with the organization shortly after that unfortunate wild-card loss in Denver almost four years ago.
In terms of the Cardinals' 2015 season, Sunday's results may be an anomaly, as the offense looks about as dangerous as any in the NFL. But it was nice for Arians to bring his old bag of tricks to Heinz Field on Sunday, complete with the same inefficient results that we all know and, now, kind of love.