Steelers part ways with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, two other assistant coaches

The Pittsburgh Steelers will not renew the contracts of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, the team announced on Thursday

The announcement comes four days after the Steelers’ wild-card playoff loss to the Browns and one day after coach Mike Tomlin alluded to changes coming within the organization. After an 11-0 start, the Steelers finished the regular season with a 12-4 record. Pittsburgh’s backsliding continued in the playoffs, as the Browns raced out to a 28-0 lead en route to a 48-37 win. 

“I want to thank all three of the coaches for their commitment and dedication to the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Tomlin said in a statement. “They have all played integral roles in our success and I am appreciative of their efforts. Personally, Randy and I have been in Pittsburgh since I hired him in 2007, but our relationship began well before that. He has been a friend of mine for years and wish his family nothing but the best, and I am eternally grateful for our relationship both on and off the field.”

One assistant that will remain with the Steelers is defensive coordinator Keith Butler, who is currently discussing a new contract, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. A member of the Steelers’ coaching staff since 2003, the 64-year-old Butler plans to continue coaching on a year-to-year basis. The Steelers also announced the retirement of tight ends coach James Daniels, who joined the Steelers’ coaching staff back in 2004. 

A member of Mike Tomlin’s original coaching staff, Fichtner served as Pittsburgh’s receivers coach from 2007-09. In Super Bowl XLIII, one of his receivers, Santonio Holmes, took home MVP honors after catching the game-winning touchdown pass in the Steelers’ 27-23 win over the Cardinals. 

Fichtner served as Ben Roethlisberger’s quarterbacks coach from 2010-17 before replacing Todd Haley as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator in 2018. And while Roethlisberger has enjoyed two of his best statistical seasons with Fichtner as his coordinator, Pittsburgh finished 31st, 29th and 32nd in the league in rushing during his three seasons as coordinator. 

The outside criticism of Fichtner intensified following the Steelers’ 11-0 start to the 2020 season. After scoring at least 24 points in each of their first 10 games, Pittsburgh’s offense scored 19 points or less during a four-game span that saw the Steelers win just one game. In Sunday’s loss to the Browns, the Steelers’ offense committed five turnovers that included four interceptions from Roethlisberger, who also set an NFL playoff record by completing 47 passes. 

Pittsburgh’s decision to part with Fichtner will likely intensify the questions regarding Roethlisberger’s future with the franchise. Roethlisberger had a close working relationship with Fichtner, who helped Roethlisberger transform his game as he transitioned from a young player who relied on his athleticism to  one of the most prolific passers in league history. 

Roethlisberger’s future is one of many question marks the Steelers face this offseason. The Steelers currently have 26 pending free agents that include JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Bud Dupree. Nine-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey is expected to retire this offseason. The Steelers also have to find a way to sign Pro Bowlers T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to longterm contracts. 

A likely candidate to replace Fichtner is Matt Canada, who just completed his first season in Pittsburgh as the team’s quarterbacks coach. A former college offensive coordinator, Canada was credited for some of the changes in Pittsburgh’s offense this season. The Steelers ran more pre-snap motion than in recent years, which at times helped open things up for Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s receivers. 

Before joining the Steelers’ coaching staff in 2018, Bradley spent over 35 years as a college assistant coach, winning two national championships with Penn State in the 1980s. Bradley received assistance in Pittsburgh’s backfield after the team hired Teryl Austin to serve as a senior defensive assistant with a focus on the secondary in 2019. The duo helped the Steelers finish third in the league in pass defense each of the past two seasons. 

Sarrett replaced Mike Munchak as the Steelers’ offensive line coach in 2019 after serving as an offensive assistant in 2018. Sarrett spent an additional six seasons as Pittsburgh’s offensive quality control coach. 

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