It can be argued that the biggest move the Pittsburgh Steelers have made in the past couple of seasons was to move from Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator to Randy Fichtner, who had previously been the team’s wide receivers, and retains the dual title of quarterbacks coach.
While Fichtner spent some time at the college level as an offensive coordinator calling plays, the role was new to him at this peak in the NFL. There were several times throughout the 2018 season during that week in which he would chalk something that came up in the game or after the game to his inexperience and the growing pains of being a coordinator.
Fichtner recently sat down with Missi Matthews for the team’s website during OTAs this past week to discuss a diversity of topics, and one that he was asked about right off the bat was what areas he felt that he could improve upon going into his second season as an NFL-level coordinator.
“Continuing to utilize our players to the best that they can be and putting them in more unique positions to help them do their job better” was the first thing that he came up with. Rather than mold players into the pieces that he wants them to be to run a specific offense, it sounds as though he is more interested in tailoring what he does to who he has and what they are capable of doing.
Which sounds like a pretty good idea to me. If people do what they are good at doing, it’s reasonable to assume that they could do it well. And this opens up a lot of possibilities for roles among the wide receivers and running backs, two groups that have been restocked with personnel this offseason, and over the past two years more broadly speaking.
Another area that he wants to emphasize this year is making sure that everybody is on the same page. “Communication in general, communication of the offense, communicating with the coaches, opening us to understanding what everyone might not have done as well and [being] open to improve it”, he said.
There weren’t a ton of instances, but we still had the unnecessary timeouts because the play-call couldn’t be conveyed clearly and concisely. Within the play, there were certainly some notable player-to-play miscues that you want to eliminate.
“We’ve addressed a bunch of little individual things with each group and each player, and phase two, I thought the guys did an excellent job being out here”, Fichtner said. “They were here, which gave them a chance to get better. We had a great amount of all the guys being here, so just that in general was excellent and gave us a great base for phase three”.
Though the defense is looking for improvement this year, including some notable upgrades at linebacker and cornerback, the fate of the Steelers in 2019 is still primarily going to rest on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger and his buddy, the offensive coordinator, so it’s good that he sounds as though he has a plan.