The Pittsburgh Steelers were quite fortunate to stumble into landing Hall of Fame offensive guard and accomplished offensive line coach Mike Munchak this offseason to serve on the coaching staff in that capacity.
A year prior, they lost Sean Kugler to a head coaching opportunity at his alma mater, and were forced to settle for what proved to be a speed bump with Jack Bicknell Jr. While it’s hard to get into any specifics about his tenure with the team, I think the fact that he was fired after one season says enough on its own.
The Steelers knew that getting a coach with Munchak’s credentials could potentially do wonders for their own young and inexperienced offensive line that could use some guidance and fine-tuning from a knowledgeable coach.
Munchak was renowned for being a technician, of course, and he’s reportedly done wonders for some of the linemen in that regard, with Marcus Gilbert in particular from the sounds of it. But there’s more that an old school Hall of Fame guard could bring to the table that you might not find in a book of fundamental offensive line blocking.
Pretty much any player in the Hall of Fame knows you can’t always get the job done in the NFL by being a Boy Scout on every snap. Sometimes you have to bend the rules and get a little rough to get by or to set the right tone. Those with the golden jackets tend to know how better to get away with these covert ploys, or as they were obliquely referred to during Steelers Live yesterday, the “tricks of the trade”.
One host in particular had a keen insight into these so-called tricks, and that would be former Steelers offensive lineman Tunch Ilkin, who shared his thoughts on how Munchak is working with the young offensive linemen on establishing that physical tone with a bit of discreet hooliganism.
Sometimes a guy throws a rib, you put the hand underneath the throat, you give him a little bit of a facial. Maybe he gets the rip and now the kidneys are exposed, so you give him a little hook to the kidneys and you put a guy on his back. Maybe you come in there and you get your hands inside, you grab the handles and you push one side, pull the other, you twist him and you put him on his back. Then when you get a guy on the ground you give him the business. You put the elbow on him, the knee on him, you kind of gore him, all those things.
When you’ve got an offensive line coach that loves that stuff and he’s going ‘look at this’, putting the video back and forth, that’s what I like to see. When you get a chance to gore somebody, you do it. Or if you get a chance to peel somebody off, like guys that are standing around the pile and you want to get downfield, we call it peeling them off the pile, so the defensive guys better have their head on a swivel because torpedos are coming.
The thing about Munch, you’ll hear him say ‘finish it, finish it, finish it’. What he’s saying is if you’ve got a guy that’s off balance, then you need to put him on his back, and that’s what makes offensive line coaches crazy. And I know that Munch will teach these guys every trick that he used when he was with the Houston Oilers.
We do know that at least one Steelers offensive lineman knows how to give the business at the bottom of a pile; perhaps Cody Wallace can be a teacher’s assistant for Munchak during those out-of-textbook lessons.