Steelers Must Learn If Mike Munchak’s Group Is Complete

Looking back on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2014 offseason, would you still regard the signing of offensive line coach Mike Munchak the biggest move that the organization made to better the team heading into this past year?

After all, so much of the line’s progression was rather natural. All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey only played eight snaps the previous year. In 2014, he missed none due to injury, at least that I can recall off the top of my head. Adding a player of his quality back in to the lineup is going to have a tremendous impact regardless of who is telling him what to do.

Then there was David DeCastro, who essentially missed his rookie season, and is just now getting his legs underneath him—even if he didn’t perform as well this year as many believed that he might.

The biggest impact that Munchak was reported to have had was on Marcus Gilbert, the Steelers’ fourth-year right tackle, who has had his share of injuries in his career, even if he didn’t miss any games because of them in 2013.

We were told during the offseason that Munchak worked on his footwork and positioning, and then we saw the improvement during the preseason. Soon after, the front office rewarded him with a new contract through 2019.

After getting off to a rough start in the first two regular season games, allowing four sacks, he started to settle down at right tackle, and was likely playing the best that he had in his career up until that point.

But he kept going up against the Baltimore Ravens and Elvis Dumervil, and the veteran pass rusher kept making him look bad. He simply had Gilbert’s number, it seemed. Of course, Dumervil has a lot of right tackles on speed dial. That’s why he finished with more sacks this season than any Steeler has ever had in a single season.

Three of his four worst games of the season all came against the Ravens—but there were other games in which he struggled as well. While his run blocking improved, there were lapses, and he has been prone to drawing penalties, as one former Steelers right tackle was also known for.

He seems good to miss between 200 and 300 snaps per season with injuries, but if he remains healthy, he figures to be a good enough option at the position. That is, after all, why the Steelers gave him the extension that they did.

But what if the draft comes along and they are put in a position to draft one of the top tackles on the board? Can you pass that up? It’s obvious that the Steelers’ bread and butter will come from their offense for the next few years, so it may be wise to continue to invest in that side of the ball. Do the Steelers have the offensive line in place, in terms of personnel, that they want? Or is it still a work in progress?

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