Concern grows over Ben Roethlisberger's close ties to Randy Fichtner, Steelers' play-calling

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has more influence over the game-planning and play-calling than ever before, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, and his close relationship with first-time NFL coordinator Randy Fichtner is already under scrutiny in Pittsburgh.

Star receiver Antonio Brown went off on the sidelines near Fichtner during last week's loss to Kansas City, the offense has run exceedingly hot-or-cold in the opening two weeks, and many in the organization believe there is a definite correlation between the heavy propensity of passes and the closeness between quarterback and play caller (Fichtner was the QB coach the previous eight seasons). Of course, not having the services of star running back Le'Veon Bell has been an issue. However, Pittsburgh's biggest issue has been an extensive total defensive breakdown in both games so far – and the Steelers' 21-0 deficit last week triggered the need to throw extensively for a while, but regardless, there are concerns about the lack of balance.

Even with James Conner, a 2017 third-round pick, thrust into the starting running back role, it's alarming to some within the team that the Steelers have run the ball just 22.5% of the time in the first half of games, by far the least in the league (Seattle is next at 28.8%) and well short of the NFL average (39.7). Overall, the Steelers are running the ball 31.2% of the time, 29th in the NFL, while Roethlisberger leads the league in pass attempts (101 through two games).

A feeling-out process was anticipated, and with no Bell and so many weapons in the pass game, no one expected a run-first approach, but finding more harmony and constancy on offense is imperative. There is concern that if Fichtner listens to his quarterback too much it could be to the detriment of other areas of the offense, and at 0-1-1 and facing a hot Tampa team Monday night, pressure is already mounting throughout the organization.

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories