Steelers fire line coach Bicknell after one season


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Five days after the 2013 season ended for the Steelers, head coach Mike Tomlin made his first offseason move by dismissing offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. after one season.

"I have decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of our offensive line," Tomlin said in a statement. "I want to thank Jack for his contributions during the 2013 season, and I wish him well in the future."

The Steelers regressed statistically in Bicknell's one season as the team's offensive line coach. They finished 27th in the league in rushing and averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Only the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars averaged fewer yards per carry. Last season, the Steelers were ranked 26th in rushing and averaged 3.7 yards per carry.

The Steelers also allowed 43 sacks this season, six more than last season when Sean Kugler coached the offensive linemen. Kugler left the Steelers after last season to become the head coach at UTEP.

Bicknell had a difficult set of circumstances to deal with in his only season with the Steelers.

Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey was injured on the first series of the opener against Tennessee and did not play again. By the end of the season, the Steelers were playing Cody Wallace, a third-stringer, at center after free agent Fernando Velasco was placed on injured reserve in late November.

What likely hurt Bicknell was the fact that two of the teams younger linemen did not develop under his watch. The Steelers drafted Mike Adams in the second round of the 2012 draft, and he earned the team's rookie of the year honors after starting six games at right tackle. Adams opened the season as the starter at left tackle this season, but he was benched after four games. Adams allowed four sacks and 24 quarterback hurries in his limited playing time.

Right tackle Marcus Gilbert, a second-round pick in 2011, did not fare much better. He remained a starter all season, but allowed 11 of the team's 43 sacks and 30 quarterback hurries.

Another factor was the failed implementation of the outside zone-blocking scheme. The Steelers worked on the new scheme throughout training camp, but they scrapped those plans after Pouncey was injured, even though Velasco was trained in an outside zone scheme in Tennessee when he played for the Titans.

Tomlin has had more turnover with his offensive line coaches than any other position on his staff over his seven-year tenure. The next line coach will be his fourth. Larry Zierlein coached the linemen from 2007-09 and Kugler from 2010-12.


NOTES -- Steelers receiver Antonio Brown was named second-team All-Pro by The Associated Press Friday. Brown, the team's MVP, set a franchise record with 1,499 receiving yards. Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions and Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Brown were the first-team All-Pro receivers. ... The Steelers signed two players to reserve/futures contracts -- punter Brad Wing and long snapper Bryce Davis. Wing, who punted at LSU, was in training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles this season before being cut. Davis spent some time on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad in 2012.

Ray Fittipaldo: and Twitter @rayfitt1.

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