Now that it has been made official that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann is retiring after five years with the team—and over three decades in coaching—the inevitable question becomes who will replace him.
A popular and understandable answer among fans is Hines Ward, the wide receiver who still owns quite a bit of the team’s receiving records, even as Antonio Brown begins to chip away at them. Ward, the all-time franchise leader in receptions with 1000, receiving yards with 12,083, and receiving touchdowns with 85, has already expressed interest in coaching.
In fact, he already spent the summer working as a coaching intern alongside Mann during training camp. If memory serves, it was only meant to be a short stint, but he ended up staying there for the length of the time. And then he continued to be called back by the team to work with the wide receivers every so often.
He has even been caught on the sideline during games on occasion, including on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers asked him to come in to work especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant to prepare them for the playoff experience, but he worked with Antonio Brown as well.
One of the things that he did was bring in his Super Bowl rings, in order to help set in their minds what they are playing for. Even with everything he has accomplished in his career, that is one thing that Brown has not yet achieved in his eight seasons. Ward has two shiny rings.
While Brown may not need a great deal of coaching, however, Ward would seem to be the ideal candidate to take over in working with somebody like Smith-Schuster. Not only are they similar receivers, it would also ease the transition since he has already worked with the Steelers great throughout the summer and even into the season.
One idea worth considering, should he end up being released, is to bring back Darrius Heyward-Bey this offseason as well as a coaching intern. Last spring, while Mann was out recovering from a surgery if memory serves, it was in fact Heyward-Bey who was running the rookie and first-year wide receivers in drills during rookie minicamp in 2017.
Ask any wide receiver on the team and he will tell you what Heyward-Bey has been something of a teacher and mentor to them. Mann’s absence leaves bit shoes to fill, and it might seem like a bad idea to try to just replace him with familiar names, but these are names that can make sense.
Especially in an offseason in which the team is transitioning to a new offensive coordinator, even if it is via an internal promotion, a familiar face who knows what the team is looking for I find makes a great deal of sense as the next wide receivers coach. And you know that Ward will be loose but stern and not tolerate nonsense, but demand perfection.