Fichtner: 'True Fans Have Right to Criticize'

New Steelers OC Ready to Shoulder the Load

Josh Rowntree
June 12, 2018 - 7:39 pm
Steelers OC Randy Fichtner and QB Ben Roethlisberger talk during the team's OTA in June

Josh Rowntree

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Steelers new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner is preparing for his turn in the limelight. But he knows it may not always be kind. 

Fichtner, who was promoted to the position when Todd Haley’s contract was not renewed this offseason, transitions into the spot after eight years as the team’s quarterbacks coach. 

Offensive coordinator has arguably been the most criticized role in the Steelers organization over the last decade, if not longer. 

"I get it,” Fichtner said. "When you take that position, that’s the role that has to land on your shoulders."

Fichtner admitted that he’s already received input from the outside, specifically his own family members, on what the playbook should look like.

But family is different than the Steelers fan base, even if the Meadville, Pa. native does have some members of ‘Steelers Nation’ in the family. He's aware of the criticism that comes with the job.  

"I’ve always said this, if you’re a true fan and you’ve been with us the whole time, from birth, and you buy a ticket out to the stadium and have never wavered, then you have the right.”

Fichtner has experience calling plays. He was an offensive coordinator at the collegiate level for four years at Arkansas State, followed by a successful seven years at Memphis before coming to Pittsburgh. He also got to call some plays under Haley.

"Todd was great because he gave me opportunity to call plays in the last several preseason games,” he said. "So, I’m looking forward to it.”

It is yet to be seen if Fichtner will call plays from the press box or on the field. 

"We’ve talked about it,” he said. "I think probably it would be best if it were down because you get a feel and you’re there and there’s great communication with the quarterback. But, with technology now, you can get on the headset and talk. We’ll probably try it both ways in the preseason.”

What is also unknown is if the Steelers offense will look any different with Haley out of the picture. 

"Well, I don’t know if it’s changing,” he said. "The offense changes just in general with people. Dynamics every year is different. There’s bodies out here that are different than last year as in the year before.”

Fichtner will still operate as the quarterbacks coach while handling broader offensive tasks.  

"Maybe that would be something you might explore down the road when you’re not working with a veteran quarterback,” he said of adding a permanent quarterbacks coach. "I think there could be value in that in the end. Right now, the value is in direct communication.”

That communication, of course, is with someone Fichtner has grown close with over the last eight years in Ben Roethlisberger. 

"The relationship has always been respect first,” Fichtner said. "He knows I’m going to give an honest days work. Whether I’m his quarterbacks coach, his offensive coordinator, both, or just his friend and I’m not here. I’m going to be his friend for a long time and that’s not going to change. It’s not going to change whether we win, win ugly or win great. It’s not going to change.”

Fichtner will certainly benefit from working with a veteran quarterback and offensive line, as well as one of the game’s top wideouts in Antonio Brown. But, with running back Le’Veon Bell again skipping offseason practices, there will be some areas that may need extra development. 

"We’re going to coach the ones that are here every day,” he said. "We move forward that way. If you’re here, we’re going to coach you.”

"It boils down to players and their ability to make plays come alive. And you put them in the best position to go and make a play. And that’s what the whole game is in professional football.”

Hear more from Fichtner below, including his thoughts on the absence of Bell, if Roethlisberger will run the quarterback sneak, rookie Mason Rudolph’s development, the specifics of the role of play calling and more.