Press Release: Bicknel hired as offensive line coach
Mike Tomlin is a results-oriented guy. It was the correct play-call if it worked. The game plan was a good one if it led to a victory. A player's performance is judged by the result of a particular game, or by the outcome of a season. Training camp was productive if the season that follows is successful.
So when it came time to hire an offensive line coach to replace Sean Kugler, Tomlin was true to himself. He decided on Jack Bicknell Jr. because at the previous places he worked the offensive line was successful.
During the time Bicknell was an assistant offensive line coach with the New York Giants, the team won Super Bowl XLVI at the end of a season in which the unit allowed only 28 sacks on the way to the offense finishing No. 5 in the league in passing. Then in 2012, Bicknell's only season as the offensive line coach in Kansas City, the Chiefs ran the football very, very effectively.
"The proof is in the pudding," said Tomlin. "When I had an opportunity to look, not only at what he says from a presentation standpoint but also at what the tape looks like, it was attractive. Obviously they were in a tough situation this past year in Kansas City from a team standpoint. Their (2-14) record reflects that. They had some instability at the quarterback position, but they ran the ball and they ran the ball consistently.
The Chiefs, despite having the No. 27 pass offense in the league, finished fifth in the NFL in rushing. They finished fifth in the NFL in rushing despite having Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn trigger a passing attack that managed eight touchdown passes vs. 20 interceptions. They ran the ball for 152 yards against Atlanta, for 214 against the Ravens, for 148 yards against Denver's No. 3 ranked defense against the run. They averaged 6.3 per attempt vs. Buffalo, 6.1 vs. New Orleans, 5.2 vs. San Diego's No. 6 ranked defense against the run. And against the teams in the AFC North, the Chiefs averaged 4.2 yards a carry against the Ravens, 4.1 vs. the Steelers, 4.3 vs. the Bengals, and 6.9 vs. the Browns.
"They played the AFC North, and they ran the ball very well against all the teams in the AFC North," said Tomlin. "They ran the ball effectively against us when Jamaal Charles had a 100-yard game. That was attractive to me. The plan they were able to put together, the success they were able to have vs. some people we are going to see quite a bit was a selling feature."
The situation Bicknell inherits here with the offensive line is an intriguing one, but one that also needs additional improvement. Going back to the 2010 NFL Draft, the Steelers have invested two first-round picks and two second-round picks on offensive linemen, with Willie Colon as a guy still learning the intricacies of playing guard after six seasons as a tackle, and with rookie seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum showing promise late last season as an injury replacement at right tackle. With the Giants, Bicknell was working with a veteran group; with the Chiefs, it was a mix.
"Our offensive line group is that group, and so I'm looking for somebody to lead that group who best fits what the group's needs are," said Tomlin. "We have a lot of young guys, a lot of emerging, developing players, and so the ability to teach and communicate and particularly develop fundamental skill are all important. Those are assets of (Bicknell's) capabilities."
What the Steelers do not have in place as of right now, what the Chiefs definitely had in Jamaal Charles, is a proven franchise-caliber running back under contract. Rashard Mendenhall is an unrestricted free agent, and while both Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman are somewhat protected as restricted free agents it wouldn't be accurate to describe either of them as proven franchise-caliber backs. How much of the Chiefs' success was due to Charles?
"Obviously Jamaal Charles is a talented runner," said Tomlin, "but when you look at their tape, there are running lanes. They did a nice job of not only getting hats on hats, but the technique with which they executed those blocks, and the demeanor they displayed individually and collectively in how they finished plays were attractive coaching aspects of the tape."
Because of the makeup of the current group of offensive linemen, it would appear that the bulk of Bicknell's work is to come in the area of teaching rather than scheming. But Tomlin believes he hired a man who can handle both.
"You have to be effective at both to be a really good coach at this level. He has displayed that," said Tomlin. "He has developed young guys. They had some young guys and some emerging young guys with the group he worked with in Kansas City. He worked with a veteran group for a number of years when he was a part of that New York Giants group that had Chris Snee and Shaun O'Hara who were a part of that system as veteran football players. He has shown the ability to coach both young and old. He's a fundamental guy, and the tape displays that. And schematically, I was impressed with the plan they were able to put together against some people we see and see quite often."