The Steelers had the NFL’s 30th ranked offense in 2019. Here’s why this could be a make or break season for offensive coordinator, Randy Fichtner.
When we think about all of the things that went wrong for the Steelers last year, it’s hardly fair to point first at offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. In just his second season as offensive coordinator in 2019, he lost his star quarterback after Week 2 and dealt with injuries two a few of his Pro Bowl players in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner.
However, Fichtner isn’t automatically off the hook. In the absence of a few of their star players on offense, Pittsburgh’s offense plummeted to the 30th ranked unit in the league, in terms of yardage. The Steelers couldn’t move the ball through the air, and their inability to sustain drives was embarrassing to a team that has been so good on the offensive side of the ball in recent years.
In Fichtner’s first game without Roethlisberger in 2019, the Steelers offense was abysmal against the 49ers despite a dominant defensive performance. Pittsburgh managed just 160 yards through the air (6.4 yards per pass attempt) and 79 yards on the ground (3.6 per carry).
The following week, Fichtner looked like a genius. At home against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator deployed the ‘wildcat’ and opened up opportunities for Rudolph to have what would be his best game of the season – completing 24 of 28 passes for 229 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, things went south as the season went on. In the last seven games of the season, Fichtner’s offense managed just 13.7 points per game, and they finished the last three games scoring a mere 10 points in each contest. Unsurprisingly, the Steelers lost three straight games to close out the season, and their hopes of sneaking into a wildcard spot were flushed down the toilet.
Many fans and analysts were critical of Fichtner’s inability to adjust the offense down the stretch. Some even claim that the only reason Fitchner has the job in the first place is because of his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger and that Ben dictates what plays he gets to call.
Whatever the reason, Fichtner needs to make some major changes in 2020 if he wants to keep his job, and a Steelers can’t afford to see another dreadful offensive showing like the one we saw last season.
The return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger will automatically make Pittsburgh’s offense better this year, and it’s possible they could see a significant jump in points and yardage this season. However, if they still underperform with a healthy unit, then Randy Fichtner could be looking for employment elsewhere in 2021.