That loud burst of joyous screams you heard was from Steelers Nation rejoicing in the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to part ways with Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner. Also not coming back are Offensive Line Coach Shaun Sarrett and Defensive Backs Coach Gus Bradley.
The big name here however is Fichtner. A former college coordinator then Quarterbacks Coach in Pittsburgh, he ascended to the OC job after Todd Haley left. It was a natural move given his strong relationship with Ben Roethlisberger and the fact that they didn’t have to overhaul the offense or terminology. It did however become clear that Fichtner had significant flaws.
The Steelers’ rushing attack which for years was a highly important and recognized part of their offensive identity, turned into a shell of its former self. The last three seasons saw the rushing numbers plummet to the very bottom where this year it finally met the basement floor. Pittsburgh was dead last in rushing in the entire NFL. Some of this was certainly due to a lack of execution, overall poor line play and having average to decent running backs at best.
Unfortunately for Fichtner those things could not hide his flaws. The offense lacked creativity. In fact, it often lacked common sense. Personnel often made it easy for opposing defenses to diagnose plays before they happened. Second and ten and Benny Snell in the backfield? Here comes the draw! But perhaps more than anything was the fact that when the chips were down, Roethlisberger would take control and the offense would flourish.
This does not speak well for you as a coordinator when your play-calling and imagination are dwarfed consistently by your Quarterback making things up as he goes. OK, it’s not quite to that extent but if you understand the game then you know what I mean.
Fichtner’s departure will raise a serious red flag to Big Ben. He’s now going to be faced with being 39 years old, in the final year of his contract AND learning a brand new offense. While the letting go of Fichtner had to be done, it can also be seen as a proverbial “hand on the back” of Roethlisberger to suggest he move on to his life’s work. Perhaps I’m going too far with that but that’s often how these things play out and the ball is now firmly in his court.
There’s no question this is the right move and one that is no doubt being celebrated by Steelers’ fans everywhere.
Image courtesy Sports Illustrated