5 Offseason Changes Primed To Help Steelers Succeed In 2014
Munchak To The Rescue
The Steelers wasted no time showing offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. the door after the 2013 season ended. They also smartly jumped at the opportunity to hire former Tennessee Titans head Mike Munchak to replace him after he was fired. Munchak, a Hall of Famer, spent 12 years in the NFL as an offensive guard and another 14 seasons as the offensive line coach in Tennessee prior to him getting the head coaching job in 2011. Munchak is a technician that can relate to the Steelers offensive linemen thanks to his time spent in the trenches and he commands respect. The Steelers have a lot of recent early draft picks invested in their offensive group and it’s time that they live up to their potential. Munchak’s job is to make sure that happens immediately.
Peezy Intensity Back In The Steel City
When Joey Porter was jettisoned out of Pittsburgh following the 2006 season, he took his patented Peezy intensity with him. When he was with the Steelers, the defense fed off of him and his hatred for the opposition. The Steelers hired Porter to the coaching staff during the offseason and while he’s officially termed a defensive assistant, most of his time will be spent mentoring and teaching the Steelers young group of linebackers. Porter’s prized pupil upon his return to the Steel City is second-year outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who recorded all of one sack during his rookie season. Jones plays on the same side that Porter once did, so the student figures to learn a lot from the teacher. While Porter is technically a coach, he still has the mentality of a player and thus should be a great veteran presence and leader in the Steelers locker room.
Need For Speed
They say that speed kills and that’s exactly what the Steelers thought they needed to add a lot of during the offseason. Where should we start? The addition of safety Mike Mitchell during free agency gives the Steelers deepest part of their secondary an element of speed that’s been missing for several years. He’ll be able to cover a lot of ground that Ryan Clark wasn’t able to get to and also be able run with nearly any offensive player that the opponent lines up in the slot when his responsibilities call for it. Mitchell has quite a few other positive attributes associated with him, but his 4.4 speed is near the top of the list. Ryan Shazier, the Steelers first-round draft pick back in May, was easily the fastest linebacker in this year’s draft class. He can cover a lot of ground in a hurry and that’s something that’s been missing alongside fellow starter Lawrence Timmons ever since he came into the league. Shazier will make his share of mistakes as a rookie starter, but his speed will help him prevent little mistakes from turning into big ones. Shazier isn’t even the fastest member of the Steelers 2014 draft class as running back/wide receiver Dri Archer was the fastest player this year at the NFL combine. Not only should Archer be able to showcase that speed at least five times a game this year on offense out in space, he also should wind up being the primary kickoff and punt returner at some point during the season.
Blount Force Trauma
The Steelers upgraded their backup running back position during the offseason as they replaced Jonathan Dwyer with LeGarrette Blount. While Blount is certainly a big back, he has nimble feet for a player of his size. While Blount will likely be used sparingly in the first half of games in order to give starter Le’Veon Bell a breather, his ability to wear out defenses late in games when the Steelers have the lead is where he should have extra value. Blount also has been known to break off long runs during his career as well, so he’s not just a three yards and a cloud of dust type of running back. His addition gives the Steelers a solid one-two punch in the backfield.
Even Less Huddling Up
The Steelers offense preformed well last season when using the no-huddle and so far this offseason the narrative seems to be that we will see even more of it in 2014. The biggest obstacle that the team needs to overcome to make that a reality is getting all of the newcomers on offense on the same page and that was worked on quite a bit during the OTA and mini camp practices. For several seasons now, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has voiced his want to be faster on offense by using the no-huddle as he feels it gives his side of the football a distinct advantage over the opposing defense. During training camp, Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense will refine what they put in place during the offseason.