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: 2020 will be Randy Fichtner’s final season in Pittsburgh.
Explanation: A year after posting the offense with the bed red zone efficiency in the NFL, with plenty of star power, Randy Fichtner’s unit in 2019 did the exact opposite. In fact, they ranked in the bottom five or six in just about every conceivable category, which is…less than ideal. Reportedly, the team intends to keep him for 2020, after which his contract will expire, and that is typically when they part with coaches.
While I don’t expect the offense in 2020 to be as bad as it was a season ago—Ben Roethlisberger’s return alone would take care of that—the last year really opened up some eyes to many of the fundamental flaws in Fichtner’s offense, and there are not clear signs of him learning from his mistakes.
The addition of Matt Canada to the staff, who has a vast amount of coordinating experience at the collegiate level, and who has consulted teams about implementing things into their own offense, adds another wrinkle to this discussion.
Todd Haley was allowed to remain on board in Pittsburgh until his contract expired. They were willing to fire Bruce Arians before that, despite his close relationship to Roethlisberger. Unless the offense seriously turns around and is no worse than top five, they probably move on next year.
It’s true that the Steelers have made some moves in recent years that might ordinarily have been surprising, given their history. But Fichtner is not going anywhere as long as Roethlisberger is comfortable with him and proves to be something above abysmal. The quarterback is in his twilight years and they won’t want to change that now.
That is why Canada was brought in to coach the quarterbacks, so Fichtner can concentrate on his job. He doesn’t have to worry about the minor details of the position anymore and just focus on building the offense. He is freed up to do that now, and with an actual healthy unit, should look closer to 2018 than 2019.