The Pittsburgh Steelers are just wrapping up OTAs, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returning to participation for the last couple of practices after taking a pre-planned family vacation in the middle of the three-week event.
The quarterback said that the trip was planned before the OTA schedule came out—though it’s not as though the start of OTAs isn’t predictable—but that he would have been in attendance for every practice had the team requested it.
Despite the fact that the team is breaking in a new offensive coordinator after six years with Todd Haley, Roethlisberger said that he felt no sense of urgency to get every practice rep possible during OTAs because of that. For one thing, they’re not actually calling plays, he said. For another, it’s his good friend, Randy Fichtner, who is taking over that job, and they already have a strong rapport.
“We’re not calling plays out here right now, everything’s scripted. It’s just going to come down to trust”, the quarterback said of his relationship with Fichtner. “We communicate so much, and we have in the past on a game-to-game, series-to-series basis. Our communication has always been really good. I anticipate that continuing, and that kind of transitions into play calling a lot, I think”.
Fichtner does not have play-calling experience at the NFL level, but he has long been involved in the Steelers’ pre-game preparations, which includes making decisions about what plays to have available to run for any particular week.
Nobody really seems to expect much to change under the quarterbacks coach’s leadership, anyway. According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, the biggest change the offensive players might anticipate seeing this season is just about the timing of when plays are called, and under what circumstances.
Fichtner spent time later in the season working directly with the offense on the sidelines, and in hindsight it’s hard not to see that move as something of a test run for how he would perform in certain duties on game day should he be promoted.
“I think Randy’s a winner”, Roethlisberger said. “I don’t think he cares how it gets done as long as you win a football game”. He clearly has a good deal of trust in his long-time quarterbacks coach’s ability not only to run the offense, but to wield double duty as both position coach and coordinator.
Which is a big reason that he didn’t feel it was imperative he was around at this time of the year. “It’s not like he’s a new guy just come in that work is necessary”, he told reporters during OTAs upon his return. “I know he does his homework and I know he understands the game”.