Steelers bring in Bicknell Jr. to coach O-line
Jack Bicknell Jr. helped protect Doug Flutie as a center in college and constructed offensive lines that kept Matt Ryan upright at Boston College and the Kansas City Chiefs into one of the better running attacks in the NFL last year despite a 2-14 record.
Now, Bicknell will have the task of doing the same with Ben Roethlisberger and the underachieving Steelers' run game.
The Steelers hired Bicknell, 49, as their offensive line coach, replacing Sean Kugler, who took the head coaching job at his alma mater UTEP at the end of the season.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the greatest franchises in the NFL,” Bicknell said in a statement released by the Steelers. “The Steelers have great tradition, great ownership and great leadership from the top to the bottom. For me to be able to come to a situation like this, it is really a dream come true.”
Bicknell has coached in the NFL for four years — three as an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants and last year for Kansas City, where he helped the Chiefs average 150 yards rushing per game and running back Jamaal Charles to rush for more than 1,500 yards.
“They played the AFC North, and they ran the ball very well against all the teams in the AFC North,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told the team's website. “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 versus some people we are going to see quite a bit was a selling feature.”
Bicknell was a three-year letter winner on the Boston College offensive line for his father, Jack Bicknell. He was the starting center during Flutie's 1984 Heisman Trophy-winning season and was on the field for the famous Hail Mary Flutie pass that beat Miami.
Bicknell, who will turn 50 next week, was the head coach at Louisiana Tech from 1999-2006 and also spent time as an assistant at Louisiana Tech, New Hampshire and Boston College before being the assistant offensive line coach for the Giants from 2009-11.
Bicknell inherits a young and inexperienced Steelers offensive line with four of the five starters having no more than three years experience, led by All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey.
“He has developed young guys,” Tomlin said. “They had some young guys and some emerging young guys with the group he worked with in Kansas City. 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.”
The Steelers were forced into 26 offensive line combinations in 2011, mostly due to injuries. Last year, they had only 11 different combinations, but had six over the final six weeks of the season that led to a running game that finished the season ranked 26th in the league, averaging only 96.1 yards per game.
“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,” Tomlin said. “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.”
The Steelers still have one coaching position to fill. Special teams coach Amos Jones took the same position with Arizona earlier in the week.