Randy Fichtner has been with the Steelers as an assistant coach for 13 years, first as wide receivers coach, then as quarterbacks coach and, for the past two seasons, as offensive coordinator. He's seen a lot of things. He's also been with Ben Roethlisberger a long time.
But Sunday in San Francisco will mark his first game as coordinator without Roethlisberger.
It creates a whole lot of the unknown for Fichtner, who has leaned on Roethlisberger's 16 years of experience as much as the quarterback has leaned on his playcalling. Fichtner, however, hasn't pouted. He doesn't have time. Not when there's another game coming up and he's got to get Mason Rudolph ready for his first NFL start.
"He's gone down before," Fichtner said Thursday of Roethlisberger. "A lot of times, you pull the cape off and he's back. You assume that's the case again. When it was known that he was not going to be back, there was no time to blink. That was a whole different story. You know the relationship I have with him. I've been here for 13 years. When anybody is injured, it's a sad moment for anybody. I told the group, I had time to be sad that night, because we lost, first. The next day, you're back to work."
With Rudolph, there's no time to not work. The 2018 third-round draft pick has impressed teammates and the coaching staff with his approach to the game since the day he arrived here last season from Oklahoma State.
And Fichtner believes Rudolph's approach will serve him well.
"He's a worker, an absolute worker. He works 24/7. Sometimes, I've got to work hard to have a joke with him because he's that serious," Fichtner said. "It matters to him. He cares. He's listened as a solider and a confidant with Ben. That in-helmet perspective, he didn't get that in the year and a half he's been here because of Ben. But I know he got a lot of it because he listens. He pays attention. He worked at his job and he listened to Ben. That's part of the learning curve, too."