I have over the course of the past several seasons turned to a series of articles around this time of year in which I looked to explore the issues and questions facing the Pittsburgh Steelers during the upcoming season and trying to identify the range of possibilities in which any given scenario can end.
I started out with a dual series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take and switched last season to the Devil’s Advocate series. In an attempt to find a more streamlined solution with a title more suited to the actual endeavor, we are introducing a simple Buy Or Sell segment exploring whether the position statement is likely to be worth investing in as an idea.
The range of topics will be wide, from the specific to the general, exploring broad long-term possibilities to the immediate future of particular players. I will make an argument for why a concept should be bought into as well as one that can be sold, and you can share your thoughts on which is the more compelling case while offering your own.
Topic Statement: The offense will be better overall under Randy Fichtner than it was under Todd Haley.
The Steelers decided that six years of Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator was enough earlier this offseason, electing not to re-sign him after his contract had come up. Instead, they promoted from within, elevating quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner to the role of offensive coordinator while retaining his previous post.
The fact that Fichtner has a great relationship with Ben Roethlisberger should already tip the scales in his favor. He is more likely to give the quarterback the plays that he wants to run when he wants to run them. Haley had a reputation—whether entirely accurate or not—of trying to run the ship on his own.
While he hasn’t called plays since his college career, reports have said that he has a good feel for the game and is well-prepared for a variety of circumstances. A number of players from the stars like Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown to the tight ends have already talked about how much they like him.
But it’s impossible for there not to be a learning curve. The bottom line is that Fichtner has never called an NFL game in his life. He is going to do that for the first time ever this season. He is going to have growing pains. He is going to make mistakes. And it is going to be a hindrance to the team’s success, even if not egregiously.
While a big part of the idea of promoting from within was to retain continuity and limit the effects of change, there will still be change, and it will still take a period to adapt.
Oh, and we also have no idea whether or not he’s going to be competent at his job. How well is he going to scout opponents? How much is he going to tailor plans to specific traits of other teams? How effective will his playcalling be in critical situations? He has never faced this kind of pressure before.