While I have expressed some skepticism over the Pittsburgh Steelers and their coaching staff being enthusiastic participants in this year’s Pro Bowl festivities after going one-and-done in the postseason, coming up three victories short of their goal, I do admit that there is some sense to it.
The biggest direct value comes in the fact that there are a couple of changes to the coaching staff this year. The Steelers chose not to renew the contract of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, and wide receivers coach Richard Mann retired.
Haley was replaced by an internal promotion, the team keeping Randy Fichtner as the quarterbacks coach but also giving him the offensive coordinator job. They looked outside of the organization to find Darryl Drake, most recently with the Arizona Cardinals, to replace Mann.
While Fichtner is a familiar face—he has been with the organization for 11 seasons now, and it is the only NFL team he has worked for—he is in a new role that he has never held at the professional level, and Drake is, of course, new to everybody.
This is an opportunity, especially for Drake, to gain some experience working with his fellow coaches, especially Fichtner, as the latter himself adjusts to his new role. And it makes all the more sense when you consider that the Steelers have seven members of their offense with them in Orlando for the game anyway.
That list of players starts with the most important, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who a year ago talked about considering retirement and is now voluntarily participating in an exhibition game. Along with him are his favorite target, Antonio Brown, his running back and fullback, Le’Veon Bell and Roosevelt Nix, and three of his protectors along the offensive line, Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, and David DeCastro.
There is no game-planning for a Pro Bowl game, of course, and you are not going to be scouting your opponent, but Fichtner will at least get the experience of calling some plays for a professional offense. He has not been a signal-caller since his college days at Memphis prior to the 2007 season.
And Drake, at least, will get to learn a little bit about Brown, whom he will have to work with for at least the next three seasons, provided that the coach is still here. I’m sure he is excited to get to work with a talent like that, who is a perennial member of the All-Pro team.
More globally speaking, however, it should be a bit of an eye-opening experience for the entire coaching staff, getting the opportunity to work with so many different players who work under varying schemes and philosophies unique to their coaches.
It should be a learning experience, if not professionally, then perhaps personally, but they may be able to take something away from it for their day jobs as well.