Categorized | Article, Training Camp

Steelers Training Camp Questions – Can New Receivers Coach Get Young Wideouts To Mann Up


By Matthew Marczi

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown in the 2010 NFL Draft, they quickly formed a bond with then-second year wideout Mike Wallace, now with the Miami Dolphins. They dubbed themselves at one point the Bugatti Boys, but truly seized upon the moniker the Young Money Crew.

The term was supposed to be a dual reference to both their play on the field and their eventual wealth after they ‘cash in’ on their on-field success. And for the first two years the young guys often were money. After all, both Wallace and Brown topped 1000 yards in 2011 en route to Pro Bowl trips.

But something seemed to happen in 2012. For one, the elder statesman of the group—Wallace—found himself a restricted free agent. Coming off of a Pro Bowl season, Wallace felt that he deserved a new contract. Talks were in place for a while—that is until he started holding out. The Steelers then turned to Antonio Brown and gave him a big new extension as he entered his first season full-time as a starter with the retirement of Hines Ward—also known, by the way, as Old Money.

Wallace was not quite himself in 2012. Was it money on the mind? Was it rust from not getting a full offseason workout with the team? Was it new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s emphasis on shorter passes? Or had defenses finally caught on to his game? Likely, it was an amalgamation of all four.

Either way, neither Wallace nor Brown played up to their potential in 2012, whether it was dropped passes or inexplicable, game-changing turnovers. Both also missed time due to injury, and the offense suffered through Brown’s mid-season ankle sprain.

Perhaps the Young Money Crew was getting ahead of itself. Perhaps the young trio did not know quite as much as they thought they did. Perhaps they still had a lot to learn, and needed a firm hand to teach them.

It could lead one to believe that the Steelers front office was pleased when wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery accepted the opportunity to be an assistant head coach at his alma mater this offseason. Some have even speculated that they helped nudge him out the door, a la Bruce Arians’ ‘retirement’ the year prior.

In comes the much older, more tactical, Richard Mann. Mann was the wide receivers coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was there as the defensive backs coach.

But more important than a shared history are the qualities that Mann brings to the position. Mike Prisuta spoke about Mann during an episode of Steelers Live this past Sunday, relaying a conversation that he had with the new receivers coach.

Richard Mann has got some theories on how the game is changing. One of the things that he has seen happen is that younger coaches and younger players aren’t as interested in technique as they are in scheme. They’d rather sit there at the blackboard and come up with a play to figure out how to beat you that way. Richard Mann thinks the way to beat you is just to play football better than the guy across from you.

More specifically, younger athletes—like, say, the Young Money Crew—are more interested in utilizing their raw talent and superior athleticism to outscheme their opponent, as opposed to say a Jerry Rice or a Cris Carter, players who dedicated their professional lives to their craft and honed their individual abilities. That, says Prisuta, is where Richard Mann can make a difference where Scottie Montgomery could not, being one of those “younger coaches”:

He’s getting back to basics, he’s getting back to fundamentals. They’re going to do a lot of work with the blocking pads, they’re going to do a lot of work making sure their footwork is right and doing the proper things fundamentally to achieve separation... I don’t think he’s necessarily going to be fun to be around in that meeting room all the time, but I think at the end of the day the job’s going to get done the way it’s going to get done—that is fundamentally, the way it’s supposed to be done.

Prisuta also reiterated the fact that it was no coincidence a guy like Mann was brought in after the youthful Montgomery. Remember, Montgomery was brought in in 2010—the same year Sanders and Brown were drafted, after quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson retired. Randy Fichtner, then the receivers coach, took over for Anderson and Montgomery was brought in to take over the team’s group of young new wideouts.

“I think there’s a reason that when the Steelers found themselves looking for another wide receivers coach they found a guy such as Richard Mann”, Prisuta said. “He’s a veteran, old school kind of guy, a little bit more of a task master”.

Can the new task master get his crew to ‘man’ up and hone their crafts, the old school way? What kind of influence can he have on the rookie Markus Wheaton? Can he get the most out of the veterans, Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress? Will he be able to make something out of the bottom of the roster with players such as Justin Brown, J.D. Woods, and David Gilreath? These are some of the questions facing Richard Mann in his first training camp with the Steelers.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Ahmad

    I like it. Beating players with strong, athletic ability is good, but that ability won’t last forever and that’s when technique comes into play. As players start to enter the twilight of their careers, it’s proper technique that is gonna help them survive.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Good work Matt.

    On LY…Wallace, I don’t fault either side. Wallace knows he probably won’t get another large FA contract (Ward was very unique in the regard I think) so he wanted to max out. On the other hand the Steelers offered a fair contract imo.

    At this point, I think the Steelers were partly at fault for not moving Wallace after they realized the gap was too wide to bridge for a long term deal. A 1st round tender plus his contract demand was never going to happen so they brought back a lame duck player looking to secure his long term future after the season…I think any player in that situation is going to be more concerned about himself than the team…maybe a second rd pick and they could’ve gotten a deal done.

    To the point of the article…I like the change in coaching philosophy…while Sanders is also a lame duck player, he’s not a proven commodity and he needs a good performance this yr to secure a good FA contract.

    Without the speed of Wallace constantly occupying the free defender deep I expect Brown to be doubled more, meaning Sanders & especially Wheaton will have plenty of opportunity to make a big impact this yr.

  • steeltown

    Yep, just think about Rice, Carter and even Ward.. these guys were not athletically better than most, but they still ended up being masters of their craft and feared by opposing Defenses

  • steeltown

    If A.Brown gets doubled Sanders will thrive, he’s a 4.4 guy (officially) but he’s ran unofficial 4.3 times, he’s fast. Throw in Wheaton and/or clutch Cotchery going over the middle with Le’veon out of the backfield and I think Teams will be hard pressed to matchup

  • Steeler Wheeler

    In hindsight, I’da traded him for a decent third string assistant trainer. Losing Ward and Wallace would’a been really tough to deal with…sure, hindsight again, but starting out the season last year with Wallace was thought to be very important, probably more important than a second round pick if such a deal could have been made.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Something tells me Coach Mann is gonna straighten out the young money crew minus Wallace. With the loss of Wallace and Coach Montgomery we might have a little addition by subtraction.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Yea, we’re in 20/20 mode now, but lame duck players are nothing new…we saw it SD with their big WR who ultimately went to the Bucs as a FA.

    Definitely an important piece. My point is rarely do lame duck players result in a win/win. I think if you’re not on the same page towards a long term deal, you’re better off moving the player for the most reasonable deal you can get.

    In this case Wallace got paid and the Steelers get a compensatory pick next yr. We’ll have to see who that pick turns out to be next yr.

  • ATL96STEELER

    I like the positive attitude Steeltown…admittedly I’m in a wait and see mode. I would certainly force Sanders and Wheaton, et al to beat me vs Brown so I think the opportunities will be there.

  • Rob H

    We all know that WR has become a “Diva” position in the NFL, I think even Brown ( who got a team MVP because of his character and work ethic) started to fall into that a little bit last year without Ward around. I think a task master who harps on fundamentals was a necessary change, and to his credit, Tomlin realized it.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Sanders needs to get wise, get humble, and TAKE what the Steelers are offering in the way of an extension. He doesn’t have Wallace’s highlight reel. Not even close. Why he’d believe he “deserves” to test free agency is beyond me. Get to work, young man. Commit to a team and show you’re worth it.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    I wonder how far apart the Steelers and Wallace actually were last offseason. I never got the impression that the negotiations were acrimonious or insulting,

  • steeltown

    Well stated.. get to work

  • ATL96STEELER

    No, no, no, no…every player deserves the right to test FA…wow! I get your point, but this ain’t the 1970s…good, bad or indiffernt, the players HAVE earned that right.

    If he wants #2 money, he’s going to have play like a true #2, and he’ll get it, otherwise he won’t.

  • ATL96STEELER

    Wallace’s initial price was $50 mil+…Idk if he came down from that number or not…reportedly the offer was basically A. Brown’s contract with more guaranteed money, and more front end loaded. How true this is Idk, but it really doesn’t matter…he felt he was worth more, and he was right in the end.

  • steeltown

    Very true that every player deserves the right to seek more money. But the “very good deal” that E.Sanders and his agent are seeking is unwarranted.

    Hopefully he can change that this season

  • ATL96STEELER

    Unwarranted…today, you’re 100% right. One thing I’ve learned about agents is some of them really have no clue what their client’s market value is…particularly when it comes to restricted guys.

    The good thing about Sanders is he still needs to prove it before any team pays much more than his $2mil this yr.

    I can’t say I like the revolving door at the position, but I have a feeling he will go to 60 & 900 to 1000 and another team will offer him more than Colbert can work with.

  • steeltown

    Its a double edged sword, we want him to produce for the Team but if he shines too bright he will be gone via a nice fat contract next offseason. Its not a bad situation to be in having a good athlete that is playing for his future.
    I just hope Wheaton can develop quickly, because we may be thin at WR next year (FAs Sanders, Burress, Cotchery) Something tells me that we may draft another WR in the earlier Rds

  • ATL96STEELER

    The Steelers are paying the price for long run of success. They paid a lot of proven players very well so there wasn’t much cap room to “take care of” these emerging players early like they did with Timmons.

    From the early reports I’m hearing, I think Wheaton will be as good as advertised once he get a full grasp of the pro game…the guy I’m still hoping turns the corner is Justin Brown.

  • steeltown

    Seems J.Brown looks better (so far) than expected.. or atleast better than I expected

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