Randy Fichtner’s official title may have changed but his relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has not and will not.
“The relationship has always been respect first,” Fichtner said following the first day of mandatory veteran minicamp on Tuesday. “He knows I’m going to give him an honest day’s work whether I’m his quarterbacks coach, whether I’m his offensive coordinator, whether I’m both, or whether I’m just his friend and I’m not here.
“I’m going to be his friend for a long time, and that’s not going to change. Whether we win, win ugly, win great, it’s not going to change. We have a communication line, there’s respect there and we’ll move forward with that.”
The Steelers participate in the 2018 minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
That’ll be a starting point and a building block for Fichtner, the Steelers’ quarterbacks coach since 2010 and the successor to Todd Haley as offensive coordinator this season.
Fichtner and the Steelers will sort out some of the other dynamics associated with the job change as he evolves into his new position.
One of those involves whether Fichtner will work from the sideline or the coaches’ box on game day:
“I don’t know that yet,” he said. “We’ve talked about it. I think probably it would be best if it would be down (on the sideline) because you get a feel and you’re there and it’s great communication with the quarterbacks. But with technology now you can get on the headsets and talk, and you can do all those kinds of things. You can do that equally as well from the (coaches’) box in some regards.
“We’ll probably try it both ways in the preseason.”
Fichtner hasn’t called plays since he was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Memphis, except for Haley providing an opportunity to do so in the final preseason game in recent seasons.
Doing so in NFL games that count in the standings will require an adjustment.
“College football is obviously a lot different than pro football, there’s not doubt,” Fichtner said. “But in the end it’s still blocking, tackling, it’s still fundamentals and it’s still the disciplines of the game that have to be taught, and that’s hopefully what we’re doing now.
“It boils down to players and their ability to make plays come alive and you putting them in the best position to be able to make a play. And that’s what the whole game is, to me, about professional football. And that’s where it’s different than college football, where you might win with tempo and you might win with a spread offense and you might win with a larger field to defend because of the hash marks. That might be where the game has changed.
“Plus, we get a little more time with these guys. College football, they’re trying to get all this done in 20 hours. You know what? We don’t get paid by the hour.”
As for the types of plays Fichtner intends to favor, that’ll depend on what’s working from game to game.
“You may average 70 plays in a game,” he said. “One week you might throw it 40 times and you run it 30. One week you have throw it 50 to try and win a game.
“It’s going to be about trying to win a game, and always keeping in mind that the guys that can put the ball in the end zone and can convert third downs, running it, throwing it, whatever it takes, are the guys that you’re gonna put in position to have success.”