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.