The Line On The Steelers Offensive Line and It’s New Coach

Written By: Steve Kimble

On January 29, 2013 the Pittsburgh Steelers hired new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. So what’s the line on the Steelers offensive line and it’s new Coach?

Here is a little back ground on Jack Bicknell Jr. to help us gain a little insight on what changes may come and what he may bring to the Steelers offensive line.

Bicknell was the starting center for Boston College and was part of one of the most historic plays in college football history when he snapped the ball to QB Doug Flutie in the famous Hail Mary play to beat Miami 47-45 in 1984.  Bicknell’s father Jack Bicknell was Boston College’s head coach at the time.

Jack Bicknell Jr. began coaching as a graduate assistant at Boston College. He later coached at New Hampshire with stints coaching the defensive line and offensive line. From 1999-2006 he was head coach of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs with a total record of 43-52.

Bicknell began his NFL coaching career as an assistant offensive line coach on the New York Giants in 2008 and was part of the 2011 Super Bowl Champions. The offensive line that season allowed only 28 quarterback sacks.

In 2012 Bicknell moved on to Kansas City to become the Chiefs offensive line coach and that line excelled at a high level run blocking. The Chiefs’ ran the ball for an average of 4.8 yards as a team and ranked 5th in rushing in 2012.

Jamal Charles, the Chiefs’ feature running back, had a great year averaging 5.3 yards a carry for 1509 yards and 5 TDS, and the Chiefs played against some of the NFL’s top run defenses such as division foes San Diego and Denver each twice.

The Steelers have tried the past few seasons to improve their running game and line play so you can see why a guy like Bicknell Jr. may have intrigued them.

Here are a couple quotes from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin following Bicknell’s hiring…

“Obviously Jamaal Charles is a talented runner 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.”

“They played the AFC North, and they ran the ball very well against all the teams in the AFC North . 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 Chiefs averaged 6.9 yards a carry against the Browns, 4.3 against the Bengals, 4.2 against the Ravens and 4.1 against the Steelers. Those are good rushing averages against some stout defenses.

So Tomlin had some good reasons for his choice of Bicknell and it falls in line with the Steelers emphasis to establish a more consistent productive running game.

Bicknell by all accounts is a coach who stresses technique, likes his players smart and well prepared and wants athletic, quick footed players that move well and can make changes on the fly.

Hopefully Bicknell’s fondness for technique and players being well prepared will result in fewer pre-snap penalties, they seemed to plague the Steelers last season.

Bicknell seems to be a big fan of zone blocking schemes and stretch plays. These type of schemes and plays require quick mobile linemen. It’s easy to see how this hire may have spelled doom for players such as Willie Colon, Max Starks, and Doug Legursky, and their future as Steelers while also playing to the strengths of players such as Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Mike Adams. Three players that seem to be the future core of the Steelers offensive line .

So you see many changes have taken place with the Steelers’ offensive line and its coaching philosophies. It’s this writer’s opinion that the hiring of Jack Bicknell Jr. was a definite step in the right direction. What’s your opinion???  We would love to hear it!

Check out Steve Kimble’s blog right HERE, and Follow him on Twitter @STEELERSNSTUFF

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2 Responses to “The Line On The Steelers Offensive Line and It’s New Coach”

  1. DrGeorge says:

    Steve Kimble’s thoughts echo those made on this site for the past two years. Our O-line has been slow and inconsistent in execution. The new NFL requires O-linemen who are nimble as well as strong.
    Starks never was cut in that mold; Colon was quick enough and effective at LG when healthy, but he was injury prone. Pouncey too is the right type of player and a Pro-Bowl center, but he has been injury prone as well. Whether DeCastro and Adams can play up to their hype remains to be seen. Bicknell is a good choice as a coach, but he will have his hands full building an effective O-line with the existing linemen. A coach can only be as good as the talent he has.

  2. George H says:

    First off, hats off to former coach Krueger on a job well done and good luck to him.

    I would say that Starks has been consistent at protecting Big Ben’s blind side. LT is a very important position that carries a lot of value. I’m not too sure how Gilbert will fair as our LT. I would still like to bring Starks back for some depth at the spot.

    DeCastro and Adams should improve with a full off-season to work on their craft. If you remember, last year DeCastro and Adams both missed significant off-season time because they were still in school. I expect big things out of DeCastro. I know he looked a little over matched during the final games of the season last year, but he was coming off a major knee injury. Again, another full year of training for DeCastro should do wonders for his development.

    I still like Adams and his run blocking ability, but he was clearly way over matched in his pass-protection. He has to improve in that respect if he wants to stay in the starting line up. He still has a lot of ability and room to improve, so I’m still enticed by his potential.

    I really like the idea of a running zone blocking scheme. The article pointed out the Chiefs running game as a great example. The Redskins are another team that runs the ball with great success using the ZBS and its not just because of RG3s ability to run neither. Shanahan has made careers for multiple rbs using the scheme. The one thing I’m slightly worried about is the type of runner that is best utilized in a ZBS. Actually Mendenhall would of been a great rb for the scheme. Our big bruising rbs aren’t exactly the ideal fit for the ZBS, but Alfred Morris had a huge year and he fits that same mold.

    Overall, the offensive line has the chance to be a solid unit given all the high draft choices the FO has spent in recent years. There are still some major concerns though. Injuries have been detrimental to the unit for the past few seasons. The Steelers don’t have a lot of depth if injuries do occur. Beachum was a nice surprise last year as a rookie, but theres no guarantee that he can repeat his early success. Theres not a lot of other guys that could step in and start. Thats just one concern to keep an eye on. Another concern I have, as I alluded to earlier, is how will Gilbert perform at LT. He has been a pretty good starter, but still has injury issues and what seems to be work ethic issues as well. The offense line is still very young and has a lot to prove this season. They will be crucial to the Steelers success this season. There is a reason why games are won in the trenches.

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