Bruce Arians Is Back: How Do You Grade His Performance In 2010?

In news that is more than a little anticlimactic when compared to last year’s reports that he would be fired, only to end being retained, Bruce Arians will return for another season as Steelers offensive coordinator.

Outside of starting quarterbacks and head coaches, there’s probably not another job in the NFL that carries as much scrutiny and criticism as offensive coordinator, and Arians is certainly no stranger to any of it (I mean, when you have message boards and Facebook pages devoted to your hopeful firing, you know the seat is always going to be a little warm).

It’s a little hard to believe that Arians has been with the Steelers since 2004 serving as a wide receiver coach for three years before taking over as offensive coordinator when Ken Whisenhunt took the head coaching job in Arizona. In his four years in charge of the Steelers offense they’ve finished 9th, 20th, 12th and 12th respectively in points, and while he always seems to have a large target on his back for fan outrage and anger, there seemed to be less criticism directed his way this year. Given that the Steelers went 3-1 with their third and fourth string quarterbacks and went most of the season with what was the definition of a patchwork offensive line, it’s understandable as to why there may have been less criticism.

That said, how do you grade his performance in 2010, and are you happy he’s returning for another season?

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  • Cols714

    I think this was Arians’ best year. He weathered the first few games and had solid game plans for when Ben came back. Plus they managed to work Redman and the young receivers into the lineup. I also liked the creativity with Randle-El on the 2-point conversion in the Super Bowl. I’m definitely glad he’s coming back.

    For the year, I give him an A.

  • Pacman04x

    Arians gets a lot of flack from The Steeler Nation. A lot of it not deserving. Look……Arians sometimes makes some questionable calls, but every coordinator that has a call that doesn’t work gets second guessed by someone. The coordinators that make all the right calls quickly become head coaches. Ben’s numbers have been signaficantly better under Arians, the running game this year was better than it’s been since 2006. So I’m one that is very happy to see Arians back. Am I’m going to scream every now and then at call…sure am, but I’ll stick with the guy that has the offense it the percental of the league.

  • Grw1960

    Before last season I was an Arians basher…Mostly because when they are moving the ball well on the ground or in the air .. They suddenly stop doing that and go with three plays of the other variety …. and he does not use the TEs and Screen plays enough.
    However I realize Arians is not the blame for everything that happens on the field. A lot of what goes wrong on the field is due to Ben not seeing open receivers , etc ..OR .. the young WRs mistakes and not being good at reading and reacting to coverage schemes yet.

    • Grw1960

      PS .. I give Arians a B-.

  • Dr Obvious

    Total yardage is a terrible metric to measure an offense by. Simple stats like points/drive and (adjusted) yard/play and (adjusted) yard/pass are much better. More complex stats like DVOA and advanced NFL stat’s efficiency metric are even better. In all those, the Steelers O had a very good year. You just can’t take raw yardage numbers of an offense that had a league best D and expect the numbers to mean anything.

    Qualitatively, this was a year that Arians accentuated his strengths and minimized his weaknesses. Arians is great at developing young, raw receivers into productive players. This year, Wallace, Sanders, and Brown all played well above their experience level.

    My knock has always been that he can’t randomize his play calling. Don’t know if he was lucky or was making a conscious effort to improve in this area, but the plays were much less predictable this year.

    • GlennW

      > You just can’t take raw yardage numbers of an offense that had a league best D and expect the numbers to mean anything.

      The same holds for points scored (which Adam used), although I am definitely partial to points scored over total yardage. The Steelers ranked #5 in offensive DVOA in 2010. When I combine that fact with the W-L record established in the face of all kinds of adversity on the offensive side of the ball (Ben’s suspension, replacement of Holmes with the young WRs, the O-line injuries) as well as trip to the Super Bowl, I’m giving Arians an A-. And he’d have gotten a A if we’d scored just one more TD and won the damned thing.

  • ecks

    i give him a B-. I’ve drank away most of last season’s memories now, but it seems that the offense ran really hot and cold, and he never adjusted really well.

  • SteelerBill

    BA did a pretty good job this year – consider the fact that the Steelers were without Ben, and shuffled the OL yet still managed to emphasize the run and make it the Super Bowl……B+

  • SteelerBill

    BA did a pretty good job this year – consider the fact that the Steelers were without Ben, and shuffled the OL yet still managed to emphasize the run and make it the Super Bowl……B+

  • RoB D

    I agree with some of the criticism that BA takes..too predictable at times, empty backfield on the goalline..etc etc.

    But this year was darn near masterful for him him, IMO. The well told story of the O-line that wouldn’t stay healthy, the loss of the number one playmaker on offense for essentially a pittance, the BB saga and the need to incorporate Sanders into the offense with an assist from Brown as well as developing a still wet behind the ears guy like Wallace into a No. 1 receiver. I think he did a super job of handling all of it.

    NE had a much easier time of it this year and they laid an egg in the playoffs. How would they have done with Brady out 4 games, with an endless shufffling of the O-line and the loss of their no. 1 receiver? OK, they dumped Moss..fair enough. I’m thinking they would have just barely squeezed into the playoffs. WE ended up the SB in what could be termed a down year. That’s why I love this team. And Bruce can stay and improve which he seems to be doing. I think Ben loves the guy and that’s an important part of it for me.


      I am with you, great year if we go by more advanced metrics and consider the complete set of circumstances. For me it is a solid A. Of course I am glad he will be back, the youngsters will be better, the O-line should be more consistent and Ben will continue on his prime.

  • Mike L

    Some things that have been mentioned are being IMO credited to Arians incorrectly.

    Winning w/o Ben -incredible defense
    running the ball more- “do it or find another job” – the owner/ head coach
    playing young players- playing the guys who look the best in practice?
    O- line weathering the injuries- Arians or Kugler?

    To me his accomplishments have to come down to game planning and play selection. He did improve in this area last season. To me he has become a slightly above average OC. So a rating of C+/B- is deserving. In a related post (above) Arians is credited with a great play design. I feel using Wallace in motion was far underused this season, consider a safety usually had deep coverage on Wallace’s side then motioning him to the other side could cause a ton of confusion on defense and allow Ben to read the defense more easily. The offense needs more plays that are disguised as run or pass. Lining up with 3 TE is run, 5 wide is pass at least try to keep the defense honest and guessing. You pass rush differently than run defend, knowing what is coming makes it too easy. Anyone remember Bull Durham when the catcher tells the batter what pitch is coming, or Remember the Titans when the DE is yelling at the other DE for only pass rushing and hanging the rest of the team out to dry.

    I do believe retaining Arians was the right decision “this year”. Give the guy a chance to improve the playcalling as he improved from last season. If he falls back to the pass/pass philosophy then Piitsburgh can look elsewhere next season. Why is pass/pass bad for a 3-4 team? The 49ers had the worst pass/ run ratio in the first 5 games at 2 to1 an no surprise they were 0-5. At midseason they had passed the torch to the woeful Cowboys who were 1-7. The Packers did win the Superbowl but their aerial attack did not help their run defense that was a terrible 4.64 ypc. In the end I am hopeful for some improvement from the offense this year and from Bruce Arians.

  • Nevetsw7

    Sorry. BA has yet to impress me. What GB, NE and NO does with their passing game our personnel are capable as well. BA has yet to learn how to gameplan for specific teams strengths/weaknesses. He was improved over last season, but man he has got to utilize this teams weapons better. Only reason I can’t be too pissed we kept him is that changing your OC during what may be a much shortened pre-season would be a mistake.

  • Dean Keaton

    I thought Arians did a very good job this year. There were still times that I could predict exactly what play would happen just from the formation and down/distance, and there were times I just plain hated the pIay call, regardless of whether it was successful or not, but this was much less in 2010 than in years past. I would attribute some of the improvement of the offense overall to Kugler putting together a better performance from the OL and giving Arians some more flexibility, but I would hope also that Arians has learned and adapted a bit too, and regardless of the causes, Arians and Kugler’s approaches/systems work well enough together to have a top-third offense. That’s good enough for me especially when we have such an emphasis on having a great defense and an offense that complements that defense.

    I am glad the Steelers are keeping him around and agree that the top OCs typically become head coaches pretty quickly, and that won’t happen to Arians. If they try to get someone better, there would be a learning curve on the new offense, a big risk (IMO) of the new playcaller being a downgrade instead of an upgrade, and if he’s good he would be gone in two years.

  • Mike

    I agree that BA is receiving too much credit for things that weren’t necessarily his doing. I think he gets credit for accounting for the situation with the offensive line and running towards their strengths (AKA Flozell and Pouncey), but it was Kugler who made that happen and I can’t say enough how happy I am that Kugler is here. Also, the emphasis on the running game I believe is misleading. For the first four games, he had to run it, no other way around that. After Ben started to bust the rust, you saw BA completely start to abandon the run. There were games where Mendy had a very good YPA but only had about 10 carries. Let’s also not forget that the Steeler D put the O in good field position more times than not.

    My biggest knock on BA, which was brought up previously, is his lack of gameplanning according to other team’s strenghts and weaknesses. With that being said, after his performance in the Jets playoff game, i’m good with him coming back. That game showed that BA may be learning and improving. He absolutely had the Jets D guessing in that first half. He called a great red zone game, moved the ball effectively by mixing pass and rush, and was very deceptive in his formations. If he can take that game, and build on what he did right and look back at how he can apply that type of smart gameplanning in the future, I think he’ll be a great asset for our team. Overall, I’ll give him a C+.

  • Wildbill99

    There are a few people in the NFL that need to be removed AND never let near anything NFL related ever again to include being a spectator.

    Number 91) is Roger Goodell Number (2) is Bruce Arians and number (3) is Jerry Jones.

    • Cols714

      Bruce Arians? The guy whose offense won the 2008 Super Bowl? The guy who had 2 1000 yard receivers and a 1000 yard rusher in 2009? The guys whose offense scored 25 points in the 2010 Super Bowl against a top 5 defense?

      Yeah, you’re right, what an awful offensive coordinator. Oh yeah, I forgot he called a bad Cleveland game in 2009 and once called a QB draw on 3rd and 6 in the playoffs vs Jacksonville, and called a slower developing running play in their own endzone vs Jets.. You are right, he’s terrible!!!!

      Seriously though, the guy has called thousands of plays since he’s been in Pittsburgh, of course he’s going to have some bad calls. But he’s also been in control of one of the better offenses in the league.

  • edog1955

    I don’t like it and I have a serious problem with the Steelers retaining him. At this point I have lost much respect for Tomlin for bringing him back again after having the opportunity to fire him last year. What is it with this guy that the Steelers organization cannot see? What type of love affair do they have with this guy. I know that Steeler Nation is not happy with this decision. After losing the Super Bowl with his stupid game plan, he should have been fired right away. I have no more patience with the Steelers and Tomlin in this matter. The Steelers will never make it to another Super Bowl with BA as the OC.

    • Facts

      I question that last sentence seeing as how the Steelers have already made it to two Super Bowls with BA as the OC.