Steelers notebook: OL coach Bicknell fired
The Steelers on Friday fired first-year offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., their first coaching staff move of the offseason.
Bicknell's firing came four days after coach Mike Tomlin declined at his season-ending news conference to discuss the future of his coaching staff, including coordinators Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley. In the past, Tomlin often endorsed the return of all of his coaches.
“I have decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of the offensive line,” Tomlin said in a statement issued Friday. “I want to thank Jack for his contributions during the 2013 season, and I wish him well in the future.”
Bicknell, son of former Boston College coach Jack Bicknell, was hired a year ago after former line coach Sean Kugler left to become the coach at Texas-El Paso.
Bicknell spent much of the offseason installing a new outside zone-blocking scheme designed to create more outside running lanes, especially for rookie running back Le'Veon Bell. Haley, the offensive coordinator, said the Steelers had wanted to install the system for more than a year.
However, the zone-blocking scheme essentially was abandoned after Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey went down with a season-ending knee injury on the opening possession of the season.
Numerous injuries along the offensive line forced Bicknell to make changes, including moving Kelvin Beachum to left tackle and bringing in free-agent center Fernando Velasco to replace Pouncey. Velasco later was injured and replaced by Cody Wallace.
The Steelers also were disappointed with the development of former second-round draft pick Mike Adams, who began the season as the starting left tackle but was benched after allowing 2 1⁄2 sacks to the Minnesota Vikings' Jared Allen on Sept. 29. Adams played mostly as a backup the rest of the season.
While left guard Ramon Foster and right guard David DeCastro had solid seasons — DeCastro in his first full season as a starter — right tackle Marcus Gilbert played unevenly, allowing a team-high 11 sacks.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 42 times, the seventh-highest total in the league.
The Steelers ended the season with one 100-yard game by a rusher, and their 1,382 yards rushing were their fewest in a 16-game season. The previous low was 1,488 yards in 2003.
Brown 2nd-team All-Pro
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was chosen Friday as a second-team All-Pro in balloting by 50 voters for the Associated Press.
Brown is the first Steelers wide receiver to make the AP All-Pro team since Hines Ward was a second-team selection in 2004.
The Steelers had not had an All-Pro player since safety Troy Polamalu and Pouncey made the first team in 2011.
Brown caught 110 passes for a team-record 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns and became the first NFL wide receiver with at least five catches and 50 yards receiving in all 16 games of a regular season.
Brown was selected for the Pro Bowl as both a wide receiver and a punt returner.
AFC North represented
Steelers rival Cleveland went 4-12 with 10 losses in the last 11 games yet had two first-team All-Pro players in wide receiver Josh Gordon and tackle Joe Thomas and three second-team players in center Alex Mack, cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward.
The AFC North champion Bengals placed wide receiver A.J. Green and inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict on the second team. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker made the first team.
Rookie Lacy honored
Packers running back Eddie Lacy, passed over by the Steelers for Bell in the second round of the draft, made the second team.
Brad Wing, a first-team AP All-America punter two years ago as a freshman at LSU, signed a reserve/future contract with the Steelers on Friday.
Also signed was long snapper Bryce Davis, a former undrafted free agent with the Bengals who was cut late in training camp. Davis played at Central Oklahoma.
Neither Steelers punter Mat McBriar nor long snapper Greg Warren is signed for 2014.
Wing is expected to compete for the Steelers' job next season. Like McBriar, the left-footed Wing is a native of Australia. He specializes in end-over-end punts with considerable hang time.
Wing signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie last yea, but was cut just before the start of the season.
Wing failed to complete his LSU career after being suspended for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl game a year ago. He was subsequently not invited back for the 2013 season.