Catching up on some stuff I missed last week, it was announced late Friday night that the Pittsburgh Steelers had fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. This announcement came as a bit of a surprise to most as Bicknell has generally been credited for doing a pretty good job this season. If there was ever an example of making chicken salad out of chicken shit, what Bicknell did with our crew of journeymen and underachievers was it. I can’t fathom how much more the Steelers expected from him.
That is, if he was coaching the line at all. Our old friend Ian Rappaport, through his ever-popular “anonymous team source” – who we know is just the kid in the Steely McBeam costume feeding that nobody bogus scoops – tweeted that he heard Bicknell had been stripped of all on-field duties by the end of the year. While not a single one of the crack local beat reporters bothered to report this during the season, Jerry Dulac at the P-G did mention – shortly before Rappaport broke his “news” – that he had heard offensive line assistant Shaun Sarrett had taken over around mid-season. If that’s true, I guess we already know who the next O-line coach is.
Whether it was Sarrett or Bicknell, somebody got those guys playing at the end of the year. After the Steelers lost their second starting center this season, things looked bleak for the O-line. There was no way they could possibly hold it together with Cody Wallace replacing the shockingly capable Fernando Velasco and the rest of the starters in various stages of disrepair. Well, surprise, not only did they hold it together, they actually excelled down the stretch. Through the final 7 games of the season, the offensive line allowed only 7 total sacks.
If Bicknell was stripped of duties, that leads me to believe the firing was more of a behind the scenes issue. Perhaps he did something to piss off Mike Tomlin or Todd Haley, perhaps he did something we don’t know about because the local authorities are all in the Rooney Family’s hip pocket. Whatever the case, something went on leading to his dismissal. Surely it wasn’t wanting “a change in philosophy” as the team website claimed as Bicknell was brought in specifically because he specialized in the zone blocking scheme the team wanted to incorporate. He also couldn’t have been fired because of the team’s lousy performance in the running game as the majority of the team’s rushing woes occurred because Le’Veon Bell got hurt right before the start of the season and didn’t really get his legs back until the final month.
I mean, if you’re gonna blame anybody for starting Isaac Redman, blame the guy who likes to use big words incorrectly and has trouble staying on the sideline during kick-offs.