It’s hard to find much to say about new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak that hasn’t already been said since the organization brought him on board earlier this offseason to help right their ship.
He seemingly has the ideal resume to be the candidate that turns things around. Not only is he from the area, he was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman in his own right, whose technical prowess helped him transition into a quality offensive line coach for many years.
He spent the last three seasons as the head coach for the only organization he’s known as a professional, and he only accepted the job because he was the last man standing.
He had to take the job. And when the Titans looked for an answer elsewhere, they couldn’t just demote him back to position coach.
Their loss was the Steelers’ gain. Munchak is back in Pennsylvania now, and back in his familiar and comfortable role of nurturing offensive linemen, now with the added perspective that comes from having served as a head coach.
So it’s no surprise that many continually refer to his signing as the Steelers’ biggest offseason acquisition before we’ve even played a down of preseason football, nor even broke for training camp. His body of work simply speaks for itself.
But there is one element that he brings in particular has been underpublicized, I believe, and that is his ability to inspire his players to be great by instilling in them a sense of ownership over the offense and a belief that they are playmakers.
Everybody wants to be a playmaker, after all. Just watch a lineman whenever he gets the ball in his hands if there are any doubts.
Munchak recently talked about the “fresh start” that both he and his offensive linemen have been given this offseason, describing it as “a new way of looking at things”, which may just be exactly what this group needs.
“I think they’re seeing the skill around them, the plays that we can make down the field and they’re excited knowing that our big play is giving Ben (Roethlisberger) an extra second to throw a football or opening a hole”.
Notice the terminology used here, talking about the offensive line group in terms of plays to be made, of getting down the field and having an impact.
For the bulk of the last several years, the modus operandi of the offensive line has too often skewed to a reactionary mode rather than an attacking mode. Instilling a playmaker’s mentality in the linemen, particularly with the skills and athleticism of Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro in the middle, can prove to be a turning point for this unit, and for the offense as a whole.
Every position coach should instill the mentality in their group that they are the cornerstone of the team; that it all rides on them. For the linemen, they must win the point of attack, or nothing matters. The linebackers must be the ones to make plays. The defensive backs need to keep everything in front of them, because there’s nothing behind them.
From the sounds of it, Munchak has been doing a good job of convincing his unit of just that. Ramon Foster said earlier this offseason that the offense only goes as far as the offensive line goes. That’s not all Munchak’s doing, but there’s no question that he’s already had a significant impact on the psyche of his unit, and it’s not even training camp yet.