Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler was on with 93.7 The Fan this morning to talk about Bruce Arians and the interest he has, or lack there of, in the open offensive coordinator position. He also talked about what quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner brings to the table should he get promoted to the position. Kugler also addressed the Marcus Gilbert to left tackle in 2012 speculation as well as the health and progress that Maurkice Pouncey has had in the league thus far. Kugler also gave a breakdown of the draft process from the Senior Bowl on, as it relates to position coaches like himself, and he discusses the crop of linemen available this year in the draft.
Interviews with members of the Steelers coaching staff are rare so here is a transcript of the interview and you can listen to the full audio of the interview here.
Re: What did you learn most from Bruce Arians while working under him?
Kugler: Well Bruce is a real intelligent guy and he was a great guy to work with on the staff. He kept things light with the guys, but he was a hard working guy and got his work done and he was fun to be around. So I really enjoyed my time with Bruce, I have a lot of respect for him and I hope he enjoys his time off.
Re: Any redzone struggle reasons stick out?
Kugler: We\’ve just got to be more efficient overall. When we run the ball, we\’ve got to run it efficiently down there when you get the opportunities and when you have your chances to make big plays, you\’ve got to cash in on those. We were excellent at times, other times we weren\’t so that is definitely an area we need to improve upon going into next year.
Re: Effect last season of injuries and displacement offensive line
Kugler: You know what, as you go from week to week, you just put your head down and grind and you prepare for each game, so it really did get down to a week to week thing with the injuries, getting guys ready and putting them in the right spots to help us succeed. You know its a funny thing because you don\’t want any of those things to happen and all the changes that were made were out of necessity and had to be done on a week to week basis to give us a chance to compete.
Re: Have you expressed interest in the open offensive coordinator job?
Kugler: I would have no interest in that job. I\’m going to do the best job I can to get the Steelers offensive line playing at the level they need to be to help us be successful and I want to help out whoever ends up being the new coordinator and be the best line coach I can be.
Re: Is Marcus Gilbert the left tackle of the future.
Kugler: Well there is a possibility of that. Marcus played left tackle in college. He started off as a left tackle for us and was a swing tackle and when Willie Colon got hurt he was thrust into the right tackle spot and did a real nice job for a rookie. Played excellent. He\’s a young man that if he dives into the offseason work and attacks everything that he needs to do to be a successful player, he does have the ability to play left and we\’ll look at him at that position and we\’ll always look to upgrade the roster at the tackle position, and all positions. We\’re always looking to get better.
Re: How much more does he need to learn about being a pro football player?
Kugler: Well he\’s got a lot to learn. The maturity process for any player coming into the NFL out of college, that\’s a big step, but for an offensive lineman, who\’s a rookie it\’s pretty tough with the mental aspect and everything and Marcus has made a lot of strides. I have extremely high hopes for Marcus. He\’s a quality football player and he is starting to get it and different guys get it at different times. We didn\’t expect Marcus to play as a rookie and were hoping he didn\’t have too, but he did and he made a lot of strides for us.
Re: Pronunciation of last name of Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner?
Kugler: I call him Randy so your guess is as good as mine.
Re: What type of guy and coach is Randy?
Kugler: He\’s an awesome guy, an excellent coach and I guess I better figure his name out, his last name if he is named the coordinator. I guess I will still call him Coach Randy. He\’s a smart guy, he\’s got a great relationship with Ben. They work well together, you can see it. They have a lot of respect for each another. Randy would be a quality coach and I know whoever it is going to end up being, the coordinator, its going to be a quality coach because this organization puts their time in and does their homework and whoever is there doing it is going to do the best job.
Re: Are they looking to promote from within the organization or outside?
Kugler: To be honesty with you guys I have no idea. When you are a line coach you kind of just delve into what you have to do to improve your offensive line and that\’s what I am doing right now. I am down here at the Senior Bowl looking at line prospects, trying to get ready for next year. I don\’t really think about those things. I just let them happen naturally, but I do know whoever ends up being the coordinator will be the best choice and I am going to try to do my best job to help them be successful.
Re: Do all of the position coaches lobby for their guy to be selected in the first round of the draft?
Kugler: The Senior Bowl is kind of the start of the process. This really your first chance to see these guys in person and get to eyeball them and see their practice habits and then it kind of continues into the combine, where you get a chance to actually interview the guys and talk to them first hand and get to see again their practice habits and drill habits. Then ultimately you go out on campus if there are guys you really like, say for an example a Maurkice Pouncey, you go out an work them out and spend a day with them, go eat lunch with them, go spend time with them and see how they interact with their teammates. See how they react in the classroom, how they react with you one on one, if they would be a good fit in your meeting room and there is a whole process to that, that has already started about a year ago with the scouts gathering all of the information on these guys. Then collectively we go in and we watch these vguys in the draft room. Spend a lot of time watching film, talking about their family history, their characteristics, their character, feed back from coaches, trainers, everybody really. The entire organization puts a collective grade on each player. If there is a player you really like, yeah you do, you stand up on the table and say this is the guy that I really would like to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. You would be surprised, most of those grades are pretty close because everybody puts in a collective effort.
Re: Strong crop of offensive linemen this year comparatively?
Kugler: You know what, it is kind of interesting because the last few years it seems like the junior group that has been coming out, and there seems to be more and more juniors coming out, usually is the bumper crop of players and this year is no exception. There are several junior lineman that can not participate in the Senior Bowl that we\’ll be looking at. Yes, there is a good group of linemen here and with that group there\’s one or two guys that could probable help us and now stats the process of identifying which guys those are.
Re: Anything Pouncey can do to prevent these ankle injuries in the future?
Kugler: Well he had an issue just recovering from a surgery that he had and I kind of believe that last year being a lockout year and not having the guys around the facilities working with the trainers and doing the proper rehab that they need to do probably hindered a lot of the players and Maurkice was no exception. He had offseason surgery immediately following the Denver game and I know Maurkice, if he can be around the building, he\’ll be there 24-7 rehabbing and I think you\’ll see a healthy Maurkice the entire season this year. I know personally for him it killed him not being able to play and I don\’t think he is going to allow it to happen again. He\’s a special player with intangibles that are unbelievable and I love coaching the guy and I know he will come back healthy.
Re: Is Pouncey one those type of guys like Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson?
Kugler: Well just to be mentioned with those guys is special for him, but he\’s got special qualities as a player and when you talk about an offensive line, you\’re looking for guys that are intelligent, guys that finish plays, guys that communicate well and guys that love playing the game and he\’s got all of the above and he\’s only going to get better. I think people, and I tend to forget sometimes until I start talking to him about off-field things, that he is only 21 years old and he\’s got a lot of room to grow. He probably should be coming out with this class right now. He should be at the Senior Bowl right now because he came out early and never red-shirted, so he should be a rookie this year and he\’s got two years underneath his belt and two quality years. The sky\’s the limit for Maurkice Pouncey and that\’s what he is shooting for. He wants to be the best.