Breaking in new coaches rarely goes smoothly. While a change in head coachis always the most difficult transition, I would say that a significant change at offensive coordinator comes next. The Pittsburgh Steelers experienced those growing pains moving on from Bruce Arians to Todd Haley.
Now they have moved on from Haley and are moving forward with Randy Fichtner as their offensive coordinator. While he has been with the team in some capacity since 2007, he has never held that post, or any post higher than position coach, at the NFL level.
The fact that there is on-staff continuity is reason for optimism for a relatively smooth transition, but there are always risks involved when making any sort of change at such an important post, and Michael Irvin asked Antonio Brown about that transition when he appeared on NFL Network earlier.
“We’ve got a great guy in Randy Fichtner. He’s been around for a long time, he’s not new”, Brown told Irvin about Fichtner, who originally served as the Steelers’ wide receivers coach from 2007 to 2009, the year before they drafted Brown.
“He knows what we do well. He knows some things we can work on and some things that [we can do] better. But we’re in great hands with him”, the wide receiver continued. “He’s been around a long time and seen the game a long time and he’s approachable. You can come to him. He don’t react under tough situations. So I’m excited about this start under Randy Fichtner”.
Brown has had an exceptional career playing in Haley’s offense. I don’t think anybody can possibly dispute that. Over the past four seasons, in all of which he was named a first-team All-Pro, he has totaled 472 receptions for 6349 yards and 44 receiving touchdowns, averaging 118, 1587, and 11 per season over that span.
Irvin cited examples of other prominent receives who so their numbers dip after losing their offensive coordinator, but Brown didn’t seem to share his concern—not that he would actually come out and say it if he really did.
But it would be hard to imagine Brown ever thinking that he didn’t have almost complete control over his ability to succeed. All he needs is a quarterback willing to throw him the ball, and he’ll have that as long as Ben Roethlisberger is there.
As for the new offensive coordinator, Fichtner previously said that he got the opportunity to get some practice calling plays during the preseason last year. He also got the chance to spend time down at the field level having direct interaction with the players in-game, in hindsight grooming him for this promotion.