By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have their work cut out for them coming off consecutive non-winning seasons. It takes elbow grease to get from 8-8 to a contender, as everybody knows, of course, but this offseason, the issue is more complicated than simply improving, due to some uncommon circumstances.
The top priority for the Steelers right now, in my eyes, is to find an offensive line coach. In a rather unusual move, head coach Mike Tomlin dismissed Jack Bicknell, Jr. after just one season on the job in the beginning of the offseason.
There were reports that Tomlin was forced to ‘settle’ for Bicknell as a temporary fill-in after former Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler departed the season prior to become the head coach at his alma mater.
Those reports also claimed that Bicknell in some way, shape, or form was either in part or entirely stripped of his coaching responsibilities mid-season. Whether or not that is true isn’t particularly relevant at this point, now that he is no longer employed by the organization and is thus no longer a factor.
The Steelers will now have their fourth different offensive line coach since 2009, when Tomlin and the organization parted ways with Larry Zeirlein. Kugler replaced Zeirlein and was with the Steelers for three seasons until 2013.
Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley have thus far interviewed just one outside candidate for the job: former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans offensive lineman, offensive line coach, and head coach Mike Munchak.
Munchak was recently relieved of his duties as head coach—since replaced by former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt—so many speculated that Munchak would perhaps exhaust all opportunities to land a head coaching or offensive coordinating job around the league before opting to re-enter the position coach ranks.
Those higher opportunities, however, are quickly dwindling, with the Cleveland Browns the last of seven teams remaining who entered the offseason searching for a new head coach. Perhaps that is why the Steelers were fortunate enough to have the chance to interview him.
It would indeed be good fortune if the Steelers are able to land Munchak to coach their offensive line, even if it ultimately proves to be for just a season or two.
With the high-value investments all along the line, a line coach the quality of Munchak could help these young players get the most out of their skill set. And there are some questions that need answering, particularly on the outside regarding Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, and Kelvin Beachum.
Before that can happen, of course, the Steelers must offer him the job, and Munchak must accept it. But regardless of who ultimately lands the job, it is a top priority to get that person in place, because the offensive line is perhaps the most unsettled yet high-potential piece of the offense, and the offensive line philosophy will help shape how the offense looks and runs in 2014.