The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers are putting too much on their coordinators’ plates this year by asking them to do two jobs.
Explanation: When Randy Fichtner was promoted to offensive coordinator last season, he never left his post as the quarterbacks coach as well, a job he has held since 2010. Former linebackers coach Keith Butler did vacate his prior position after becoming defensive coordinator several years ago, but with the staff parting with Joey Porter, Butler is now being asked to coach the outside linebackers as well.
While Fichtner didn’t seem to have many issues coordinating his unit last season, leading the league in red-zone efficiency and producing one of the highest-scoring units in the NFL, it’s fair to say that Butler’s group had its share of problems.
There are issues in his play-calling and coverage schemes, for example, that we have highlighted in the past mark a certain level of concern. Adding more to his plate by asking him to be responsible for a specific position group is not going to help that.
Additionally, having a position coach with a divided attention does not best serve the young players in those groups. In Fichtner’s case, you have the potential heir apparent being short-changed in Mason Rudolph, or Joshua Dobbs, who I have to mention or risk getting yelled at), while Butler has Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and Sutton Smith to develop.
First and foremost, however, neither Fichtner nor Butler are being asked to do anything that they haven’t done for a very long time. And at least in Fichtner’s case, he’s wielded that dual role before at the college level. It’s not outside of the norm for coordinators to have deeper responsibilities at the NFL level.
One must also understand that with the Steelers, game preparation happens at a community level. While the coordinators are ultimately responsible for the final structure, all coaches have their input in what ingredients go into the dish each week. The real challenge simply boils down to their in-game ability to call the right plays at the right moments—in Butler’s case, while managing a linebacker rotation, though it shouldn’t be much with two entrenched starters.