The season couldn’t have ended any worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After starting the season 11-0, Pittsburgh dropped 4 of their last five regular-season games. They were embarrassed by their division rival in the wild-card round. It was such a promising start for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, but they struggled down the stretch.
What could be blamed for their late-season collapse is their offensive production. Pittsburgh’s offense was potent in the early parts of the season, finding success with explosive plays down the field. Late in the season, the big plays faded, and the Steeler’s offense crumbled. Mike Tomlin said changes were coming this offseason, and the team didn’t wait long to begin said changes.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive struggles
For the Steelers, it looked like their offense fizzled out down the stretch of the season. The only time they looked like their normal selves was in the second half against the Indianapolis Colts. Besides that, the Steeler’s offense failed to produce anything. One of the glaring issues that the Steelers had all season was the absence of their running game.
It isn’t often the Steelers aren’t associated with a strong rushing attack. It has happened in recent seasons, as they haven’t had any success in running the ball. Pittsburgh averaged 84.4 rush yards per game, ranked dead last in the NFL, per ESPN. The offensive line lacked the grit and physicality that it has been known for in season’s past. Because the Steelers couldn’t run the ball, they tried to use the short passing game as a substitute.
The short passing game wasn’t effective either. Because the Steelers relied so heavily on quick passing, defenses adjusted to it. They played closer to the line of scrimmage, hounding Pittsburgh’s receivers. The Steelers averaged 6.3 yards per pass attempt in 2020, the second-lowest in the league. The lack of big plays down the stretch ended up derailing Pittsburgh’s offense.
Receiver drops also played a part in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive struggles. The drops happened more frequently later in the season, costing the Steelers in crucial situations. The team had 31 drops this season, tied with the Dallas Cowboys for most in the league, per NBC Sports. It was a tough season for the Steelers offense, meaning changes were inevitable.
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t bringing back multiple coaches
Pittsburgh will be looking for multiple new coaches this offseason. They have decided not to renew the contracts of Randy Fitchner, Shaun Sarrett, and Tom Bradley. Bradley was the defensive backs coach, Sarrett was the offensive line coach, and Fichtner was the quarterback coach and offensive coordinator.
All three coaches had contracts that expired after this season. The offense, offensive line, and defensive backs were all areas of the team that struggled this season, which makes sense why Pittsburgh didn’t offer them extensions or contract renewals. It was reported that Ben Roethlisberger would adlib and call his own plays when the offense lacked productivity.
“I want to thank all three of the coaches for their commitment and dedication to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have all played integral roles in our success, and I am appreciative of their efforts,” said Tomlin in a statement, per ESPN. Fichtner has been with the Steelers since 2007, Tomlin’s first year as head coach. He’s been Roethlisberger’s quarterback coach since 2010.
With the Steelers not bringing back these three coaches, it could start a domino effect of departures within the Steeler’s organization. The team said they want to make changes so they can continue their winning ways. How could these coaches’, specifically Fichtner’s departure, impact Ben Roethlisberger’s future with the Steelers?
Ben Roethlisberger’s future with the Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have many of their players heading toward free agency. They will need to sign some of those impact players, but Ben Roethlisberger’s future with the team is the more pressing question. He is 39-years old, coming off a good season, but would be carrying a hefty cap hit if he is on the roster. With his longtime coach gone, will he want to return to Pittsburgh?
If the Steelers bring him back for one more year, his contract will incur a $41.25 cap hit. That is an insane amount of money going to an aging quarterback. Pittsburgh would need to rework his contract, so they have the cap flexibility to sign some of their younger players who will hit free agency. Roethlisberger has intentions of playing next season, but is it with the Steelers?
Losing his longtime coach is definitely something Roethlisberger is including in his thought process. Working with a new coach at this stage in his career might not be something Roethlisberger wants to do. He might have to learn a new offense, which is hard for any quarterback; just ask Tom Brady.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are sticking to their word as changes are coming to the organization. Three coaches won’t be returning, one of them being Big Ben’s longtime quarterback coach. With his age, the heavy cap hit, and potentially having to learn a new system, these coaching moves could also signal the end of the Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh.