Report: Bicknell’s Role Had Diminished In Second Half Of Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. on Friday after just one season with the team, but according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there was writing on the wall for several weeks that the change was coming.

According to Dulac’s sources, offensive assistant Shaun Sarrett was more involved with the coaching of the offensive line on a day-to-day basis for the second half of the season and Bicknell’s role slowly diminished in the process.

Over the course of the last seven games of the season, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked just seven times after being sacked 36 times in the first 9 games.

In addition to the sacks being down in the second half of the season, the Steelers offense rushed for just over four yards per carry in the final five games of the season after averaging just 3.27 yards in their first 11 games.

When you factor in that both Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert certainly didn’t make progress in 2013 like many hoped that they would and that the outside zone blocking scheme was barely used, it all likely adds up to the organization likely thinking that a change was needed.

Team president Art Rooney II will be addressing the media over the course of the next several weeks and it will be interesting to hear his thoughts on why the change was made.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • RJ

    That would make sense. I’m wondering if shaun sarrett will be the new offensive line coach? If he is responsible for the better line play, he may have earned himself a promotion.

  • WilliamSekinger

    This is a very interesting story. Would love to know the reason behind this but its doubtful we will ever hear the real story. It’s a shame because we as fans are left with wild speculation.

    My wild speculation is Bicknell invested everything into zone blocking and when Pouncey went down he panicked. Scrapped the entire blocking scheme in favor of power, but did not have the background to coach that scheme, or only gave a halfhearted attempt.

  • Callentown

    It really sounds like Bicknell just didn’t fit whatever the team was trying to do. Also seems like Shaun Sarrett did a better job.

    Man, just imagine what he might do with better Tackles!!

  • RMSteeler

    I also think Haley’s role was diminished, possibly under pressure from BB to let BB make more decisions with the no huddle. Remember Ben expressing his frustration with play calling before they went to the no huddle? If Haley had resisted that role change and the second half of the season would have matche the first half, Haley might as likely been gone, too. Thanks, Ben.

  • Alan Felicia

    Sarrett is fairly young. Was hired in 2012 as an Offensive Quality Control Coach and prior to the hire he spent 4 years at Duke doing same job.
    Perhaps, Sarrett was more familiar with no-huddle offense than Bicknell.
    Very interesting turn of events. Big question: does Sarrett have enough qualification to become Offensive Line Coach? Or will Colbert and company (Tomlin, Haley) hire a more seasoned coach? And, which direction will they go? If they continue with zone blocking scheme, perhaps they go after O-Line coaches from either Texans and Redskins (as both exiting coaches believed in zone blocking).

  • RJ

    Good point. His coaching experience is rather minimal. His playing qualifications seem to be nonexistent too. However, if he is responsible for improving the offensive line and making Kelvin Beachum look good at left tackle, then he deserves serious consideration for the position.

  • Alan Felicia

    Read in the Pittsburgh papers that Haley became more comfortable that offense was effective with no huddle especially the O-Line. In fact, Haley was reluctant in the beginning of the year b/c he didn’t know whether Velasco (and soon Wallace) can pick up the offense right away. Plus, the rash of injuries to every lineman. By week 11, when the line started to get healthier during the Detroit game, the no-huddle was being used more frequently. Also, even though Roethlisberger calls the plays, there’s still lots of prep work during the week with Haley. Lots of short passes (thus the reason AB caught 110 balls).
    Am I the only one who believes that Roethlisberger has bought in to this system? Its the best of both worlds for him = he takes less punishment (less sacks), plays all 16 games, calling plays, and putting up solid numbers (QB rating: 92., TDs= 28, INT= 14, Passing Yards= 4,261).
    Haley is not going anywhere unless some team hires him as a head coach.

  • JohnB

    Yeah its one thing to coach these guys, its another to develop them. If he can do both, I say he should get the job. Having said that, if they felt that way, wouldnt they announce Sarretts promotion in the same press conference?

  • Jazz

    I don’t think BB has as much leverage as you think. Why do you think they leaked that rumor about trading him in the off-season. I think the rumor was leaked purposely to get BB’s attention. Go back a few weeks after all that rumor crap started and then faded away. That was when BB started playing better. Truth be told, BB came out and said several of times during the offseason that he had established a better relationship with Haley. He also stated that he was excited about the direction of the Offense moving forward in 2013. I’m not saying that Bicknell shouldn’t have been fired; I do think he was the scapegoat for a team that went 8-8. I think Haley did an exceptional job in the 2nd half, I also think for the first time in his career, BB dropped backed and got rid of the football. He also targeted his checkdown receivers more so than I’ve ever seen him do. I think that is the main reason his sack total dropped in the 2nd half.

  • JT

    We’ve seen how hiring from outside worked out. Give the kid a shot. Can’t get that much worse, right?

  • JT

    Totally agree about the system. Let’s all not forget that Ben is kind of a egotistical SOB. If he gets to play longer, while getting more glory because people don’t understand the work that goes into the no huddle, he has no reason not want to make the system work.

  • JT

    What I don’t get, is if he really was so off base and barely did his job…then fire him. Don’t waste half the season with other people doing his job for him. The team didn’t get to .500 until the last game. It wouldn’t have been so shocking to blow things up a little.

  • Rick M

    That certainly explains the terrible offensive line for the first half of the season, and the much improved line the second half. Whoever vetted Bicknell didn’t do a very good job.

  • Shea Fahr

    I remember hearing rumblings in 2013 OTA’s that the staff was not impressed with Bicknell thru the papers/media ect. I ditched it at the time but evidently there was something going on even back then.

  • Shea Fahr

    Well, let’s hope Kirby is next to go because other than Bell, the RB’s since he has been hired have had almost zero progression regardless of who was the O line coach. I know he had to fight his way back from a house fire but wow…nothing else.

  • IronMike73

    Another classic Tomlin move. Fire a coach who has 28 years experience plus super bowl wins, for a guy who has 3 years at Duke. Scottie Montgomery vouched for Sarrett so thats good enough for Tomlin the clown. Let’s take a look at Tomlin’s lineman: Cam Stephenson, Tony Hills, Kraig Urbik, A.Q. Shipley, Chris Scott, Jonathan Scott, Maurkice “3 straight injury laden years” Pouncey, Marcus “broke ankles” Gilbert, Keith Williams, Mike Adams, DeCastro, Beachum. Great job Beachum leading the team in sacks surrenderred, you play like a 7th rounder from SMU. Not a road grater or mauler among them anywhere. The current crop are just as disposable as the previous 8. Was it Bicknell’s fault that Adams and Gilbert have no strength. Or maybe it was Bicknell’s fault that every lineman on our roster missed at least one game if not more due to injury? Yeah its definitely Jack’s fault that Tomlin drafted weak O-Lineman who can’t stay healthy. Well we have our scapegoat for one more season, we definitely needed to make a coaching change but O-Line wasn’t the position that needed changed. It’s time to take a serious look at all of Tomlin the clown’s draft picks that he took full responsibility for this season. Lowest sack total, lowest takeaways in team history and an ongoing issue of players not ready to play. Tomlin is a bad evaluator of talent and add to that he has no idea how to extract the best out of players and you have yourself no playoffs. All it’s gonna take is 2 more Tomlin drafts to cripple and submarine our team for the next 10 years.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Did you even read the article? An assistant mad much better success with the same exact lineman as Bucknell. Some would argue the assistant had to work with 2nd an 3rd stringers and lineman signed off the street with better success than Bucknell had with the starters.

  • Shea Fahr

    It was the same one that Vetted Redman to the 53 at the end of training camp after Dwyer led the team in rushing in the preseason…I guess we will never know.

  • IronMike73

    The article as perfectly written as it was, is heresay as in none of us or them was there to know what exactly happened. Tomlin’s body of work in player evaulation and drafting is an outright failure. Time to cut our losses send Tomlin the clown back to William & Mary, and turn it over to someone capable of drafting and preparing players. Tomlin has submarined our team with his 7 drafts, time to wake up and smell the failure.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Funny how you have a profile created just for this thread. But the message remains the same. You hate Tomlin and want him gone, we all get it. I guess those same lineman magically improved their strength and technique when the assistant took over. It couldn’t have anything to do with Bicknell at all…

  • Steve

    Some good points but remember that under Tomlin a Super Bowl was won and another was lost. The Defense was our sour spot this year and let see is Tomlin is able to make some decision on what to do there. He wasn’t mum on coaching changes for nothing, so he better shit or get off the pot. Defensive changes are coming and if not then shame on him. Steelers didn’t drop off from the top D to middle of the pack to sit and watch others get better.

  • IronMike73

    Hate Tomlin? What does Tomlin the clown being a horrible coach and evaluator have to do with you throwing the hate word out there? 7 horrible draft classes later we’ve posted the lowest takeaways, the lowest sacks, in team history. It was Arians fault that we couldn’t run the ball and was ranked 14th in the league in total offense. After reading every post in the thread your the only person who has used the word hate. Tomlin will have his scapegoat every off season to mask his ineptitude and inabilities. Tomlin: “Bruce Arians is retired and we’re moving on as an organization”. Bruce Arians: “I never retired nor did I ever talk about retiring with Mike Tomlin or the front office personnel”. So William was it also Bruce Arians fault and is Bruce retired also or did he just follow a coach of the year up with a 10-6 season? hmmm interesting, keep deleting posts Willie great job

  • Steve

    Was Timins, Pouncy, Decastro, Brown, Bell Terrible? Think again? Yes,, it was a Major screw-up making Arians the scapegoat, but I wounder whoes terrible PR. job that was?

  • WilliamSekinger

    Nice straw man dude. Please focus for a second instead of changing the subject. How did an assistant improve the OL play when Bicknell could not, even though they both had basically the same lineman to work with?

    You claim Bicknell’s firing is to cover up Tomlin’s incompetence. I say Tomlin should be commended for recognizing the problem and implementing a temporary fix until the season ended. How many other NFL coaches could recognize a mistake had been made, when that mistake was made by the coach his self? Many coaches would not have been so quick to pull the trigger on a guy they had just hired.

    Therorize all you like about why Bicknell couldn’t get the job done but two facts remain: During the 1st half of the season the OL play was horrid. During the 2nd half of the season the OL play was much improved.

  • IronMike73

    The only straw man is Tomlin the clown, a bad coach with no grasp of clock management, who you will go down in flames with. A poor evaluator of talent. A coach who “obviously” has a below the bar “pedigree” in terms of playing the game and coaching the game. Maybe you enjoy 7 consecutive sub par drafts and missing the playoffs. There’s lifelong fans here who have watched Steeler greats and hall of famers play in multiple decades that will neither settle for mediocrity nor sit around idle and quiet while watching Tomlin pick a new scapegoat every offseason. Because a source of Dulac said something that makes it 100% absolute truth to you? So all reporters tell the truth. Does that also make LaCanfora’s story about Ben wanting out of Pittsburgh true as well? Since it’s in print it has to be right huh? No room for thought or abstract viewpoint just soak it all up as truth.

  • Mike Sweeney

    I agree. There’s been nothing, whatsoever. Keep the overhaul coming for the betterment of the team. New era!!!!

  • WilliamSekinger

    I see you have absolutely no answer to my question.

  • IronMike73

    Sepulveda, McBean, Dallas Baker, Chris Scott, Essex, Jonathan Scott, Cameron Stephenson,

    Rashard Mendenhall, Limas Sweed, Bruce Davis, Tony Hills, Dennis Dixon, Mike Humpal,Ziggy Hood,Kraig Urbik
    Lewis,Joe Burnett,Frank Summers,Ra’Shon Harris
    A. Q. Shipley, David Johnson, Thaddeus Gibson, Crezdon Butler, Stevenson Sylvester, Jonathan Dwyer, Doug Worthington, Curtis Brown, Baron Batch, Keith Williams, Chris Carter, Marcus Gilbert, Cortez Allen,

    David DeCastro, Mike Adams, Sean Spence, Alameda Ta’amu, Chris Rainey, Toney Clemons, David Paulson
    Terrence Frederick, Kelvin Beachum. And the bad players just keep on coming. Your right it’s Bicknell’s fault. It’s Jack’s fault that every lineman on our roster missed at least 7 quarters due to injury.

  • WilliamSekinger

    ADD much? Focus man. I know you can do it. We are talking about why Bicknell was fired, not Tomlin’s entire draft history.

  • IronMike73

    You know nothing. You’re talking about why Bicknell was fired and you think you know why. Signing someone to a 4 year contract and then terminating them as a scapegoat due to injury ridden bad players is cowardice. You should focus on the big picture instead of trying to micromanage Jack’s termination. The big picture is this, 90% of the players this coward has drafted are either not on the team, not in the NFL or not starters on our team and making no impact. After missing the playoffs next season our hall of famer LeBeau will become the next scapegoat. Stop the coward now before it’s too late. Recipe for failure. Keep riding his meat it becomes you. #firethecowardtomlin #wewantdivisiontitles #wewantplayoffberths

  • IronMike73

    Tomlin: “Dick LeBeau has retired we’re moving forward as an organization.”

  • WilliamSekinger

    Tomlin didn’t NEED a scapegoat. Everyone saw the improvement in the OL play the 2nd half of the season. He fired Bicknell anyway and I want to know from you why? ‘He needed a scapegoat’ is not an acceptable answer because he most certainly didn’t need one.

  • RMSteeler

    I think Haley and Ben met halfway on how the system should be run. Haley still designs the plays, and Ben convinced Haley and MT that he should have more freedom to check out of plays he feels won’t work with what he reads. Haley has been more laid back and willing to listen since coming to the Steelers. Not all his way or the highway that led to his last HC release. He even agreed with Ben last year for them to still use some play call language that Ben had used for 10 years, instead of insisting on wholesale change to his language. After a 2-6 start this year, I think Mike Tomlin may have finally stepped in and negotiated the change because what did they have to lose? Besides their jobs. Not a Haley hater. He has designed great plays. But if I was a two time SB winner, I would be frustrated with someone whispering plays in my ear that I could see would not work when reading the defense. Haley and Ben are both great at what they do. Too bad it took a season and a half for them to trust each other. I think they will work more closely this off season and be more open to each others ideas.

  • Rick M

    William: Tomlin should be “commended” for hiring a coach, squeaking glowingly about what he will bring to the Steelers, and then firing the guy a year later? How in the world is that worthy of any sort of commendation?

    I side with you in your discussion with Iron Mike, but commending Tomlin for anything related to this matter is ridiculous. He should have hired the right coach to begin with, rather than hiring the wrong one and risking Ben’s health for the first half of the season.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Rick, I agree with you that Tomlin made a mistake in hiring Bicknell. But woulda, coulda, shoulda, is not part of my world. The mistake was made and nothing can change it. My ‘commending Tomlin’ remark was only made in the context that Tomlin evidently recognized his mistake and took steps to rectify it during the season. Most coaches in the NFL would have been resistant to demoting someone they just hired and made a bad situation even worse. One could make the argument that if it wasn’t for Tomlin’s move the Steelers would have had a much worse record than 8-8.

  • Rick M

    I can’t be respectful on this one, so I’ll apologize up front.

    Tomlin made a big mistake, was ‘bright’ enough to realize the disaster halfway through the season after 30 or so BB sacks, and through Tomlin’s foresight we were able to get to 8-8 for the second straight year. Gee, let’s hold a parade! The last ‘shot’ is yours. Make it a good one.

  • WilliamSekinger

    You are plenty respectful. It’s nice to argue with someone who isn’t off his medication haha.

    You got me, it was a huge mistake. Would you have him stick with Bicknell the entire season then or fire him outright? Firing him outright would have been definitely been seen as a scapegoating move halfway through the season and sticking with him would have resulted in a worse season.

    Coaches of other teams have hired position coaches and had terrible results. It happens all the time in the NFL. This situation is not unique to Tomlin and the Steelers. Even Cower had his troubles with the OC position.

  • Superdriller316

    Just reading your conversation. I don’t know what happened in the second half of the year, but Ben only getting sacked 7 times in 7 games I’m all for. I don’t know if Jack promised something he couldn’t deliver? Did Mike do his homework before hiring jack? Why did it take so long? I’m all for if you make a mistake, correct it quick. I remember David Todd said on his show during mini camp that people were not happy with Jacks coaching style. So who knows???? There are a lot of people who talk a good game and when it comes down to it they don’t deliver. Just means you have to do more homework and that does fall on Mike. Hell, last year we thought we had the best WR’S in the league. The WR coach was the same, but they fell way below the line. I guess there is enough blame to go around.

  • srdan

    No he didn’t read it.

  • Crazy Bone

    What evidence do you have that Tomlin even makes the decisions? I think the guy is a figurehead mostly. Tomlin didn’t want Arians fired…the owner did. Tomlin didn’t make the OL by himself…the owner was at the senior bowl helping to look at candidates. Most importantly, there is no evidence that Tomlin is drafting alone. Funny how you don’t mention Colbert’s name. Do you think Tomlin was responsible for drafting Brown or Wallace in the middle to late rounds of the draft? I think those were Colbert’s picks along with the picks that missed.

    The idea that Tomlin runs everything is ridiculous. Tomlin had his coordinators basically picked out for him when he got the job and he has been doing what he was told ever since.

  • DoctorNoah

    Adams and Gilbert have strength and size just fine. What they lack is good technique and leverage. That is something that is coached. Decastro is a mauler, and knee injuries happen, especially to linemen and especially in a cut-block- happy league.

    If you think that conditioning has anything to do with either Decastro’s or Pouncey’s knee injuries, you are profoundly mistaken. The same goes for Gilbert’s ankle and Velasco’s Achilles. That’s just not how injuries work.

  • DoctorNoah

    I agree with your points in general, but I think that, at the time, hiring Bicknell was a smart move, one that most of the fans were excited about – we always got beaten by zone running plays in the past, and a zone scheme is well suited to the fast, mobile lineman we had drafted (Pouncey and decastro specifically). Bicknell had a proven track record.

    I just don’t see how anyone can fault Tomlin. We lost key personnel in the first game that severely set back both our offense and defense. On offense we eventually made adjustments. And it involved scrapping Bicknell’s scheme. I don’t think we realized that his coaching style didn’t fit the team but, especially if he was being driven out mid season, his firing is not surprising. People who criticize Tomlin’s drafts aren’t looking around the league.

    I think, in a lot of ways, our mediocre season can be linked to the loss of Foote with no capable backup emerging until late in the season. If Foote was in, half of those 20-yard plays would likely never have happened. Kudos to rookies for stepping in, but Foote they are not.

    Also, anyone out there bitching about how the Steelers have always been so good and are now wallowing in mediocrity and so every head has to roll clearly does not remember the 1980’s.

  • DoctorNoah

    For the record, I like you to take a look at our draft classes from the past 15 years and compare them to the Patriots, where I don’t think anyone would argue that Belichick is a good evaluator of talent. With Cowher, and with Belichick, there were multiple draft classes with one or two good players and a bunch of failed experiments. Same goes for Tomlin. I think you’ll find there are a lot of surprises. We got AB as a sixth rounder, just like they got Brady. There were multiple failed experiments at DE, DT, G, T in mid rounds on those teams, just like under Tomlin. It really is instructive. To say Tomlin’s not a good judge of talent is to be a poor judge of judging talent.

  • Steve

    What happen was the running game got on track. Anytime you can run the ball effectively, this get the D wore down and opens the passing game. The D has to bring up more players in the box, then you start passing or mixing both.

  • Steve

    Then LeBeau ends up in Cleveland as their DC – HA!

  • Steve

    Good coaches delegate well. Tomlin needs to get one of his coaches that is good at clock management do the job.

  • Steve

    You are right, Roney wanted more running and came out and said it. Arians was a pass 1st OC and Roney didn’t like it but do you think he was going to fire him? He hires people to do that and it was done. Tomlin should have said we wish Bruce well and are moving on, but he screwed up and said he was retiring, which we all know was a joke.

  • Superdriller316

    To get the running game going the OL needs to block and open holes, the RB feels more comfortable in the scheme. So some where and someone got the OL doing what they needed to do.

  • CrazyTerry

    You do realize Colbert is the GM, not Tomlin. Oh, and if it were upto Cowher, we would have had that flaky offensive lineman Philly drafted and is now out of football instead of Big Ben. No SBs. Funny how you can’t even spend one word to bash Colbert and his scouts. It’s not Tomlin’s job to draft. And Colbert is a fool if he gives Tomlin that much say. Tomlin’s job is to tell Colbert what he needs and to give his opinion of the possible draftees. That’s it.

  • Brendon Glad

    AHHHH….so THAT explains why the OL had me wanting to kill somebody in the first half, and then magically, and despite even more injuries, they went 5 games and barely even garnered a curse word from me. It all makes sense now.