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09.10.2018 03:18
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ask the men he coaches what makes Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner tick Chris Wormley Jersey , and you get a variation of the same response.

He’s a dude. A good dude. But just a dude.

“There’s nothing special or outrageous or eccentric,” guard David DeCastro said.

And that might be exactly what the Steelers need after six highly productive if occasionally volatile seasons with Todd Haley calling the plays.

On the surface Fichtner and his predecessor could not be more different. The sometimes combustible Haley wasn’t one to hide his emotions and followed a personal mandate to wear shorts at every practice regardless of the weather.

Fichtner, promoted from quarterbacks coach to coordinator in January after the team allowed Haley’s contract to expire, takes a decidedly more even-keel approach.

The most recent time he remembers truly losing it on the field came during the 2010 season opener against Atlanta.

When Rashard Mendenhall crossed the goal line for a walk-off win, Fichtner leapt into the air and jokes he may have pulled his hamstring in the process.

To be fair, the 54-year-old Fichtner can still move a little bit. He finished practice on Thursday by playfully dropping into coverage as a safety while the first-team offense went through a quick walkthrough after the defense left the field.

Unlike Haley, Fichtner makes more conservative choices, at least sartorially.

While Haley showed off his calves, Fichtner is usually in sweats, a long-sleeved undershirt and a pullover as he was on Wednesday even as temperatures soared into the 90s.

The thing is, Fichtner didn’t really look uncomfortable. Probably a good thing considering the stakes of his new gig.

He takes over one of the league’s most star-laden offenses, even with All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell out while waiting … and waiting … to sign his one-year franchise tender. All Fichtner has to do is design an attack that will produce a fifth consecutive playoff berth and — the team hopes — its first trip to the Super Bowl in eight years.

Asked if he’s ready to be second-guessed every Monday and Fichtner smiled.

“Sure, absolutely, comes with it,” Fichtner said. “I get it.”

He’s been there before, just not for a while. He’s a football lifer. His father Ross was a quarterback at Purdue then spent eight seasons as a cornerback for the Cleveland Browns in the 1960s. Randy didn’t wander far afield.

He played briefly at Purdue then went immediately into coaching after graduation. His nomadic climb up the ladder included four years at Arkansas State from 1997-2000 Authentic Pekka Rinne Jersey Kids , where he crossed paths with a young defensive backs coach whose energy and edge Fichtner couldn’t help but be drawn to.

So when that young defensive backs coach called in 2006 and offered Fichtner a job in the NFL, Fichtner figured there was no way he could tell Mike Tomlin no.

More than a decade later, the partnership is still going and is one of the main reasons Fichtner stayed in Pittsburgh rather than chase other opportunities.

“That’s just, my relationship with Mike,” Fichtner said. “I told him when I came, I told him ‘I’m coming for you’ and since I’ve been here, I’m all-in for the (owners) and the organization also. Makes it a couple of reasons. I’ve always felt I’ve been content with jobs that I’ve had and I’m content and just do the best I can.”

Having some of the most talented players at his disposal doesn’t hurt either. Fichtner has developed a strong bond with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who figures to given plenty of leeway to run the no-huddle as he pleases when the Steelers open the season in Cleveland on Sunday.

“I’m sure he’s quite capable of making the right decisions at the right time,” Fichtner said. “He’s done it in the past and I don’t see it being any different in the future.”

Still, even Roethlisberger is a bit curious how different things will be with Fichtner’s voice coming through his helmet instead of Haley’s.

“I don’t know,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ll see. That’s the question everyone wants to find out. What’s Randy’s personality? What are his tendencies? We’ll all find out on Sunday I guess.”

Josh Dobbs, who credited Fichtner’s tutelage for helping him supplant Landry Jones as Roethlisberger’s primary backup coming out of training camp, is curious to see how willing Fichtner will be to let the creativity he shows during meetings come to life on the field.

Yet for all of Fichtner’s “just one of the guys” persona, Dobbs allows there’s a fire underneath even if it’s imperceptible on the practice field. Just start watching film with Fichtner. The joking stops, at least briefly, replaced by Fichtner’s inner perfectionist.

“When you get in the meeting room http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/matthew-ioannidis-jersey , he flips and he’s the most passionate guy every single play,” Dobbs said. “It’s ‘Do this and it’s a touchdown. This is what we can do.'”

The self-described “old dude” understands he’s an unknown quantity outside the locker room. He’s not inside the locker room. His role has changed. His approach has not.

“He’s probably wanted to be an OC for a long time,” Dobbs said. “So to get to that position where he’s the guy calling plays and game-planning and to see him not change is really good. He’s the same guy, bringing energy. … I think that shows in how he attacks the field.”

NOTES: Tomlin said he does no

Anyone who pays attention to the NFL knows that Tom Brady is 41 as he heads into the season. He’s hardly the only geezer, in football terms, still on the field or hoping to be when the season kicks off next month.

Indeed, Brady isn’t even close to the oldest guy suiting up these days. His former teammate in New England, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, is 45.

There are plenty of players currently on rosters who are older than Rams coach Sean McVay, now 32. Hey, that’s in the midst of the prime competing years for most positions.

Here’s a look at six 30-somethings who could be impactful this season. We’re steering away from the kickers, who tend to age a lot more slowly than anyone else.

Drew Brees, Saints quarterback — There are no signs of Brees slowing down at age 39. He’s in the perfect offense, which he knows so well he could probably run it from a rocking chair.

Helping mightily are skill position players such as Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram when he returns from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, Michael Thomas Jake DeBrusk Jersey , Ted Ginn Jr., and Benjamin Watson (37 himself).

Also aiding Brees: A defense can’t throw anything at him he hasn’t seen — again and again.

“I understand that I don’t have a whole lot of time left,” says Brees, who’ll be 40 in January and whose contract expires after the 2019 season. “You’ve got to work and have high expectations and sacrifice and do maybe even more now than I ever have.”

Andrew Whitworth, Rams left tackle — Whitworth was a stud for Cincinnati for 11 seasons, but the Bengals must have believed he was through in 2016 because they let him walk as a free agent. Now 36, he comes off an All-Pro first year in which the Rams were dominant on offense.

Despite all those years in the trenches, Whitworth looks as sharp and powerful as the day he came out of LSU in 2006. He has a shot at his first Super Bowl with a supremely talented roster around him.

Julius Peppers, Panthers defensive end — Like Brees, Peppers will someday wind up with a bust in Canton, Ohio. At 38, he’s no longer an every-down player, but he’s an every-day leader.

Peppers can provide ample force as a pass rusher if he’s mixed in efficiently, something Carolina is quite good at with its D-line. That’s essential in the league’s best division, facing Brees and Matt Ryan twice a season.

Peppers was placed on the physically unable to perform list in July, but the Panthers don’t seem too concerned about his availability — or production — when the games count.

Terence Newman Youth Ryan Shazier Jersey , Vikings cornerback — Now this is really impressive: a DB who will be 40 before the season kicks off, yet can handle the speed- and agility-based duties in an increasingly fast-paced game.

Newman enters his 16th pro season — he was the fifth overall selection by Dallas in 2003 — and this will be his fourth year in Minnesota. The league’s oldest defensive player likely will see some time at safety on a game-changing defense. To see any time at all in an NFL secondary at such an advanced age is stunning.

“You have to figure out something else that you want to do, once you get to my age,” Newman said when he re-signed in May. “I think this will be my last year. No matter what happens, this will be it for me.”

Vernon Davis, Redskins tight end — Once among the elite tight ends of the NFL, Davis remains at 34 enough of a force on the field and a positive influence off it to be a factor for Washington. He averaged 15.1 yards a reception for the Redskins a year ago, third best in his distinguished career.

Alex Smith often targets his tight end — Travis Kelce became a star catching Smith’s passes in Kansas City — and Davis knows just about everything about playing the position.

L.P. Ladouceur, Cowboys long snapper — At 37, this is his 14th year with the Cowboys; how many fans would recognize the Canadian in Big D without his jersey on?

Long snappers always are unsung, fitting the cliche of only getting noticed when they mess up. Ladouceur almost never does, and he’s now the longest-tenured Cowboy with Jason Witten retired.

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