The Pittsburgh Steelers are certainly coming off an unusual season. That tends to be the best way to describe a year in which the quarterback who starts the most games for you in the back half of the season is an undrafted rookie free agent whom you get at the beginning of the season.
Because of the vast instability at the quarterback position, it makes fair assessment of other aspects of the team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, more complicated to gauge. Was Ben Roethlisberger masking a ton of problems? Did the play of the backup quarterbacks create problems there did not previously exist? The answer to both questions is yes, but by what degrees, it’s unknown.
Take for example offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. He took the offense to new heights in certain respects in his first season on the job in 2018, the Steelers finishing with the best touchdown percentage in the red zone of anyone in the league for the past several years.
Last season? They had the worst in the NFL, and among the worst in years. First to worst, but he’s not the variable. Roethlisberger was. What does that mean? We don’t know for sure. Clearly, he could have done better. One can’t help but wonder, however, if he would have done better if he were not both the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach.
While it’s been discussed how much of a role Matt Symmes took on in that department, Fichtner nevertheless was responsible for overseeing quite a bit for Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, neither of whom had ever thrown a meaningful NFL pass before, the latter being an undrafted rookie.
Fichtner has been the quarterbacks coach since 2010, but when he was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018, he retained his previous title, and they have not had a standalone quarterbacks coach since then. One can imagine they are reconsidering that strategy in light of the 2019 season.
During a chat session, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette responded to one question about the potential for a change of personnel among the coaches by saying that he thinks that they will add a quarterback coach, describing it as “something they are already discussing”.
While it’s not uncommon for teams to have coordinators who hold multiple roles, it’s not necessarily the goal to have the smallest coaching staff possible. The Steelers typically do (defensive coordinator Keith Butler also coaches the outside linebackers), but it’s easy to see why they would be reconsidering at least one of those truncated positions.