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Old 03-13-2007, 03:34 PM   #1
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Default Fichtner enjoying his new opportunity

He grew up a Browns fan, but there is no doubt where wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner's loyalties lie now.

For him, it's all about the black and gold.

Mind you, Fichtner had a good reason for cheering for the Browns. His father, Ross Fichtner, was drafted by them in 1960 and the former defensive back spent eight of his nine NFL seasons with them. So it made sense that his son, who was born in Cleveland, support his team and stay loyal to them for a time after his playing days end.

But, the irony of it is the elder Fichtner wanted to wear the black and gold. He was a standout at Purdue and the McKeesport, Pa., native heard talk that his hometown Steelers were going to draft him. But it didn't happen.

"When he was a senior he was in the understanding that he was one of the guys that the Steelers were interested in taking at the time," explained his son. "He got drafted with the first pick in the third round. There weren't as many teams back then and the AFL was having their first draft so he was drafted by Buffalo too. He wanted to come back here.

"As a matter of fact he was in this area hunting with some friends and he heard over the radio who the Steelers drafted. Then he found out when he got back in that evening he was picked by the Cleveland Browns. He would have loved to have been here."

Instead, his son is living out his dream as a new member of head coach Mike Tomlin's staff. Fichtner came from the Steelers after spending 23 years coaching in college, the last six as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at the University of Memphis.

Fichtner will be coaching a talented group of wide receivers that includes veteran Hines Ward and second-year player Santonio Holmes, the team's number one pick in 2006 who continued to develop throughout last season. He has had the chance to watch both of them, as well as the other receivers, on tape from last season and likes what he has seen from the group.

"It's really a group that seems to work well together," said Fichtner. "They are extremely hard working in the area of blocking. It looks like as the year went on some of the younger guys got more comfortable and showed a little more experience. I am looking forward to working with them."

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has indicated that you could see four wide receivers lined up on first down, something previously unheard of in this offense. For Fichtner, it seems like the perfect lineup.

"That's extremely encouraging when you work with wide receivers," said Fichtner. "That means opportunity to be on the field. It's about consistency, making their plays when they are called upon, finding the right mix of guys to be able to compliment each other to be able to make those plays. That comes with a lot of responsibility also."

One thing that won't change, though, is one of the primary responsibilities the wide receivers have. That being blocking.

"It's extremely important," said Fichtner, who in Ward has one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL to work with. "It's extremely important here because we are going to run the football. If you are going to get any type of running game generated, or potential long run plays, you are the line that is going to allow those running backs to spring a long run, or a long pass. You can catch a short pass and run long if you've got good players working down the field and conveying for you, making sure they get second effort blocks down the field."

Fichtner is one of four new coaches on the offensive side of the ball and that has made the adjustment period a bit easier.

"We're all kind of new together," said Fichtner. "You get a chance to start from scratch. You start from day one. The learning process is a bit easier. Sometimes when you come in and you may be the only new staff member you always feel like you are a fifth wheel because some of the terminology doesn't make sense. Bruce has been wonderful. We've had a lot of time now to study, to talk about the playbook and work on it.

"Coming in and getting the chance to work with Bruce who has been here and has the continuity of a relationship with the offensive players had been great. He has been wonderful with helping me move day-to-day and keeping me informed on what's the next phase of what's going on.

Fichtner and the other coaches have been putting in long days, often times arriving at the office while it's still dark out and not leaving until well after the sun has set for the day. But you won't hear him complain about it.

"I don't sleep much because I am excited about hurrying up and getting back in," said Fichtner. "We work a lot on the playbook. I've gotten the opportunity to watch a lot of film. There has been in the last several weeks a priority put on free agency and evaluating players, as well as for the draft. There has been time spent evaluating wide receivers available in the draft.

"If I can be here and not get too tired, or until you realize you have to go eat dinner, I stay here. I don't know how many hours I spend here, but I can't get enough of it and I am enjoying every minute of it. It will be a lot more exciting when the players get here and you get a chance to see them more."

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Old 03-14-2007, 09:42 PM   #2
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Default Re: Fichtner enjoying his new opportunity

Good article, the steelers coaches are the "melting pot" of the nfl. Sometimes a shakeup allows for great things to happen. Go Steelers.
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Old 03-15-2007, 09:24 AM   #3
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Default Re: Fichtner enjoying his new opportunity

I am very happy that Randy is getting this opportunity. I am familiar with him since he coached at U of M and he was a member of the staff that was instrumental in getting the football program going again. Of course, having a player like DeAngelo Williams made his task just a tad easier .

All the best, Randy! We're pulling for ya back here in M-town!
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