One of the qualities that the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent years have been regularly accused of lacking is being appropriately prepared, not just for games generally speaking, but for facing a range of potential scenarios over the course of a game, a criticism that has been lobbed at the offense especially.
And to be fair, there are times when they do seem to be just winging it and going for everything. Sometimes it works, and we forget about it, such as in the walk-off win against the Chargers a few years back with Le’Veon Bell running it in out of the Wildcat with no timeouts and time expiring if he did not get in.
Then there was the New England Patriots game from earlier this season, which really seemed to drive home the issue. The Steelers looked to have scored a go-ahead touchdown, but in spite of having a few minutes to prepare for an alternative result, they did not manage to have more than on play called when they went back out onto the field, which contributed to eventually throwing a game-ending interception.
That was a bit of a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen. Ben Roethlisberger wanted to spike the ball and either go for the win or the tie, but it was Mike Tomlin who overruled everything and insisted on running a play on third down in the event of failure. Todd Haley did not have a second play called, saying that the second-down play needed to be incomplete or out of bounds, but it ended up being neither.
That explanation did him no favors with either his critics or his rare supporters. And even I had a problem with that. So here is to hoping that the Steelers’ new offensive coordinator, Randy Fichter, is somebody who likes to be better-prepared for contingencies, which will inevitably arise.
The good news is, he is, at least to one former colleague. Jeremy Fowler talked to his former head coach while he was the offensive coordinator at Memphis, Tommy West, for ESPN after the move was made official to replace Haley with Fichtner.
“A lot of guys you watch, you know they are a play or two behind and reactionary”, Fowler quoted him as saying. “I thought a strength of Randy’s was anticipating things coming up. He was really good at knowing what’s coming and having plays ready for each circumstance”.
That probably comes as music to the ears of many, though we will only find out once the games start being played whether or not this will remain true. West also said that Fichtner works well with different types of personalities and embraces input from his players.
It’s easy to speak well of a coach starting a new job, as he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. I’m sure it will not take long for Steelers fans to begin sincerely calling for him to be fired, however.