The Pittsburgh Steelers took a bit of a risk when they made the decision to move on from Todd Haley as offensive coordinator and promote Randy Fichtner into that role this season. The team was performing pretty capably, even if not as a very top team, on the offensive side of the ball, and Fichtner is a novice play-caller at the NFL level. Generally not something you want to introduce into the twilight years of your franchise quarterback.
But while there may have been some minor growing pains here and there, Fichtner has by and large acquitted himself very well, with that being made no more obvious than in the fact that they are averaging 29.9 points per game and have a .750 winning percentage.
Even Pro Football Focus has actually taken the time to recognize him as one of the top playcallers in the National Football League right now in an article published recently that I assume is an inaugural piece in which they attempt to rank offensive and defensive playcallers.
“Fichtner has been able to oversee substantial efficiency by the Pittsburgh offense, despite the fact that dual-threat running back Le’Veon Bell has played zero snaps this season, and far more importantly, the fact that Ben Roethlisberger has been a cluster 5 quarterback through the season’s first 11 weeks”, the article reads.
I suppose we are not going to be able to avoid the topic in the comments, and criticism of the site is bound to ensue, but yes, it’s true that they currently have Roethlisberger ranked as their 19th-highest-graded quarterback so far this season. Make of that what you will. The article goes on:
“The Steelers are fourth in the AFC in early-down efficiency throwing the football and only Drew Brees has faced less pressure than Big Ben (24.3%) through 11 weeks. As the offensive coordinator of one of five teams with more than a 10% chance to win the Super Bowl, Fichtner needs to be a bigger name moving forward”.
I think one thing that we have seen from Fichtner is a greater willingness to be adaptable based on the opponent than we may have seen in the past during Haley’s years. Especially in recent weeks, he has also taken to running the ball a lot out of passing sets, and has done a lot of throwing out of heavy sets as well.
His most impressive work, however, has to be the schemes run in the red zone so far this year, which has helped to create a number of great opportunities to score. It’s no coincidence that the Steelers currently have the second-highest red zone percentage in the league. Execution is a huge part of it, and that has been up in recent years, but they have also been placed in better situations in which to execute, and a lot of that goes on Fichtner.