The Pittsburgh Steelers’ decision yesterday to opt for youth at the quarterback position showed a tremendous amount of confidence in Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph. But it also showed a great deal of confidence in Randy Fichtner, the team’s quarterbacks coach, as he embarks upon his first season in a dual role as offensive coordinator.
The coaching staff is putting a lot on his plate this year, expecting him to assemble the offense on a weekly basis—albeit with input and assistance from the entire offensive coaching staff and starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—while also developing not one but two young quarterbacks, and also being an even bigger pair of eyes and ears for Roethlisberger as he no longer has his number two in Landry Jones, in which he has grown to have a significant level of trust and confidence.
Say what you will about whether or not the Steelers made the right personnel decisions at the quarterback position, but it cannot be denied that there will be some ripple effects and consequences. All of a sudden, Roethlisberger has lost two vital voices in his ear in Jones and former offensive coordinator Todd Haley (for all the alleged contentiousness in their relationship), and a third critical voice is going to have his attention divided between a number of responsibilities.
It goes without saying that the first priority each can every week is going to be to prepare your starting quarterback for the next game. That is the most fundamentally essential ingredient of every gameplan. Roethlisberger comes first, and this should go without saying. And I certainly think Fichtner is capable of delivering on that end.
While he’s doing that, though, he is going to need some help in growing the young quarterback room. And he will have help in the form of Matt Symmes. Symmes coaching the coaching staff this offseason as an assistant, and has been working with the quarterback group.
It wouldn’t surprise me for a second, however, if one of the top priorities next offseason is to hire a dedicated quarterbacks coach. I respect Fichtner and have confidence in his ability to do his job well, but I think it’s taking on too much when you have a young quarterback room.
And Roethlisberger more than ever—really, for the first time in his career—is going to be asked to really step up to the plate to help nurture these young quarterbacks. It’s really something that he has never had to do before because the team has always had a veteran backup quarterback who was able to help out any young arms.
Whether it was Charlie Batch or Bruce Gradkowski or even Jones last year, who helped Dobbs along, the player-to-play relationship is an important one, and now Roethlisberger at 36 is in a position he’s never been in before. Honestly, it will be interesting to see how he embraces it, but I’m sure he’s not thrilled about Jones being released.