Mike Tomlin mentioned that Richard Mann still has cut-up reels of past players on VHS tapes. And now I think I have to explain to half our readership was a VHS tape or a VCR is. Go skim around here after you’re done reading this article and be properly informed.
And yes, I know what one is. It’s how I used to record Steelers’ games and before college, I spent $300 on a Magnavox VCR/DVD combo. I’m not proud of that.
For the Steelers, though, they’re certainly proud and grateful to have a guy like Mann on their coaching staff. Tomlin was asked about his impact as the receiver’s coach and immediately, his face lit up at the thought.
“Richard Mann has been doing this a long, long time,” Tomlin said. “A lot longer than me. He’s coached guys like Webster Slaughter, guys that people in this room have never heard of. He’s coached Ozzie Newsome. He is a treasure trove of experience and stories. It’s a value to me, it’s a value to the receiving group.”
He was hired by Tomlin in 2013, coaxed out of a semi-retirement after a four year hiatus. Mann has made the receiving group one of the strongest positions during his time here, constantly churning out new talent. This year has been perhaps the biggest challenge and test to that depth, asking players like Cobi Hamilton and now Demarcus Ayers to play snaps probably never imagined months ago.
Mann began coaching in 1970, two years before Tomlin was even born.
“I just respect experience and the wisdom experience provides. We’re blessed to have guys on staff like him, James Daniel, John Mitchell, and others who help us in those ways.”
Here’s what Tomlin had to say on him shortly after making the hire in 2013, replacing Scottie Montgomery, who had gone back to Duke.
“He’s a good communicator. He says what he means in very concise sentences. He’s got a great deal of experiences and has worked with a great variety of guys. He knows everything about playing the position at this level.”
Whenever I’ve had the chance to talk to current or former Steelers’ receivers about Mann, the response is universally positive.
Shakim Phillips spoke highly of him.
“In a couple weeks I’ve learned so much from Coach Mann. He’s definitely one of my favorite coaches I’ve had through my whole life. He’s an old-school guy and he has a lot of knowledge about the game. He’s very big on technique and he’s helped me out a lot. I stay after with him, watch film, come early with him, watch film with him before and after practice. Just to pick his brain as much as I can.”
Issac Blakeney said similar over the summer.
“He’s already becoming one of my favorites coaches because he’s teaching me a lot in such a short amount of time.”
This is shaping up to be Mann’s final year coaching, hinting at retirement at the end of the season. He’s battled health problems, missing part of minicamp after undergoing knee surgery, and is somewhere around 70 years old. If the Steelers win a Super Bowl, there’d be a ton of feel good stories, but maybe none better than his.