Got some bad news to share with you this Monday if you’re in the “fire Randy Fichtner” camp. Don’t expect it to actually happen. According to this tweet from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the tea leaves indicate Fichtner will return as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator in 2020.
Signs point to Steelers retaining OC Randy Fichtner. He still has another year on his contract, the team hasn't indicated any change internally and Fichtner is close with Ben Roethlisberger.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 6, 2020
To be clear, this doesn’t appear to be a concrete report but it’s what most fans expected since the season ended. There’s been zero rumblings of the Steelers making a change at coordinator, rightly or wrongly, and with Ben Roethlisberger returning, the team has little desire to make a switch. Forcing Roethlisberger to learn from and work with a new OC in the final years of his career simply isn’t something the Steelers want to consider. There aren’t any in-house options for this team to look at either.
Mike Tomlin said coaching changes were possible but they’re much more likely to happen among the positional coaches. Whether that’s a new WRs coach after Ray Sherman and Blaine Stewart shared that role, the possibility TEs coach James Daniel retires, or maybe something happening with Tom Bradley (could he go back to college?) or Teryl Austin (will a team give him another look as a DC?).
It’s worth noting Fowler’s nugget of info that Fichtner has one year remaining on his contract. The Steelers typically let contracts run out as opposed to firing coaches early, another reason to expect status quo at offensive coordinator next year.
While Pittsburgh’s offense was dreadful in 2019, they excelled in Fichtner’s first year as OC. In addition to their usual potent self between the 20s, the red zone offense, one that always underwhelmed, became the #1 unit in football and the best since the 2003 Kansas City Chiefs.
Of course, without Roethlisberger, the offense tanked. Specifically, that #1 red zone offense fell to dead last in the league and the Steelers scored exactly 10 points in their final three games. The offense was littered with injuries from nearly every unit, making a cohesive gameplan hard to come by, but Fichtner failed to elevate really anyone from this group and simply couldn’t overcome the talent gap.
Like it or not, it’s almost certain Fichtner will be back next year in the hopes of getting the offense back on track. If it does, it’ll largely be thanks to Roethlisberger but Hall of Fame, franchise QBs are supposed to make their coaches look smart.