If there is one person in football who is almost always universally reviled by the fan base of any given team—there are always occasional exceptions of course—then the man who is the offensive coordinator and/or play-caller tends to be the one who gets the brunt of the blowback, more often than not.
That has been the case as much in the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base as anywhere else. I’m sure there are fans already gearing up to cry for whoever the offensive coordinator is next after Randy Fichtner to be fired. But first we have to see whether or not Fichtner will be the offensive coordinator in 2021.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that the contracts of both Fichtner and defensive coordinator Keith Butler will be expiring with the start of the new league year, as do the contracts of the majority of their assistant coaches. He suggests that the assistants typically operate on one-year deals after two seasons, so that would preclude newcomers like Matt Canada and Ike Hilliard from that discussion.
It should be noted that head coach Mike Tomlin rarely actually fires a coach. Typically, the announcement comes that they have allowed said coach’s contract to expire. That was the case, for example, with former outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, among others, when he was let go.
While he notes that it is too early for Tomlin and company to make any concrete decisions, he writes that “it is unlikely he will stand pat and not make any more changes”. To that point, he has been making more changes to his staff than he ordinarily had in the earlier stages of his career.
Fichtner, who is one of Tomlin’s closest friends, predating his being a part of the original coaching staff assembled in 2007, has been in the role of offensive coordinator for the past three seasons, though the 2020 season was the first in which he did not also jointly hold the role of quarterbacks coach.
As for Butler, he has been the defensive coordinator for several years now, and has also been working with the outside linebackers since Porter’s contract was not renewed. Dulac suggests that if Tomlin wishes to continue to call the majority of the defensive signals, then he will not make a change here.
The Steelers did finish 12th in the NFL in 2020 in points scored, and third in points allowed. Offensively, they also ranked 14th and 11th, respectively, on third down and in the red zone, which are middling but not bad numbers. Defensively, they ranked fifth and sixth in those categories. The defense also ranked first in fourth down defense.
It is as likely or more that we see changes at the assistant level as opposed to the coordinator level, and Dulac highlighted the offensive line and Shaun Sarrett, in his second year as the head line coach after being a longtime assistant.