Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin dipped into college football history to find his latest offensive line coach.
Tomlin on Tuesday hired former Boston College star Jack Bicknell Jr., to replace Sean Kugler. Bicknell, who has coached five years in the NFL with the New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs, was the center for one of college football’s most memorable plays, Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass to Gerard Phelan that beat Miami (Fla.) in 1984.
The son of former Boston College coach Jack Bicknell Sr., Bicknell has four years of NFL coaching experience, serving as assistant offensive line coach for the Giants from 2009-11, and offensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Tomlin told Steelers.com. “When I had an opportunity to look, not only at what he says from a professional standpoint but also what the tape looks like, it was attractive. They were in a tough situation this past year in Kansas City from a team standpoint. Their record (2-14) reflects that. They had some instability at the quarterback position, but they ran the ball and they ran the ball consistently.”
With Bicknell’s line leading the way, the Chiefs ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, averaging 147.9 yards per game, despite ranking 27th in passing. Included in that total was a 142-yard effort against the Steelers in a 16-13 Pittsburgh win and a 214-yard game against Baltimore.
“They played the AFC North, and they ran the ball well against the teams in the AFC North,” Tomlin said. “They ran the ball effectively against us.
“That was attractive to me. The plan they were able to put together, the success they were able to have against us.”
The Steelers, who stumbled to an 8-8 record after a 6-3 start, ranked 26th in the league running the ball in 2012, averaging 96.1 yards per game.
Prior to joining the Chiefs, Bicknell helped coach the Giants to a win in Super Bowl XLVI, with linemen Chris Snee and Shaun O’Hara earning Pro Bowl berths.
He inherits a line from Kugler, who left to become head coach at UTEP, that includes three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, 2012 first-round draft pick David DeCastro and former second-round picks Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert. After that, however, there are some question marks.
Left tackle Max Starks and guard Ramon Foster will be unrestricted free agents, and veteran guard Willie Colon has finished the last three seasons on injured reserve and could be a salary cap casualty.
Bicknell sees joining the Steelers as a great opportunity.
“The Steelers have a great tradition, great ownership and great leadership from top to bottom,” said Bicknell, who was head coach at Louisiana Tech from 1999-2006. “For me to be able to come to a situation like this, it really is a dream come true.”
The hiring of Bicknell leaves Tomlin with at least one coaching opening to fill.
Special teams coordinator Al Everest was fired in August, prior to the regular season opener, and special teams assistant Amos Jones, who replaced Everest, left to take the same position with the Arizona Cardinals last week.