It’s been a short while now since Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann announced his retirement—it has been long enough, in fact, that the team has already managed to replace him, bringing in former Arizona Cardinals wide receivers coach Darryl Drake for the same position—but I still wanted to comment on it, all the same.
Mann was brought in for the 2013 season in order to fill the shoes of Scottie Montgomery, who was the team’s wide receivers coach from 2010 through 2012, replacing Randy Fichtner, who moved from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach. And when he came in, he brought with him a different, and needed, attitude.
Montgomery, who later returned to his alma mater of East Carolina and climbed the ranks from offensive coordinator now to head coach, was tasked with steering the ship of the ‘Young Money Crew’, which took form under his watch.
That group consisted of Mike Wallace, a 2009 third-round draft pick, followed by Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, third- and sixth-round selections, respectively, in 2010. I don’t particularly call what names they each anointed themselves—I believe Wallace was ‘Fast Money’—but they brought with them ambitions of greatness accompanied by great wealth, and great ego.
The group at times became difficult to manage, and Mann was important in straightening out the egos of the wide receivers room, which had at its head just a 32-year-old in his first taste of NFL experience, having previously served as the wide receivers coach at Duke for four seasons.
Mann was the opposite. He was about as grizzled a veteran wide receivers coach as you can find, beginning his NFL tenure as a coach with the Baltimore Colts in 1982. He spent about a decade with the Cleveland Browns after that before the franchise moved to Baltimore—after the Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis during his tenure there—before coaching the Jets and then coming back to Baltimore to coach the Ravens’ receivers for two seasons.
Following a two-year stint in Kansas City and then a year in Washington, Mann finally landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, where he would work with a young and up-and-coming assistant coach by the name of Mike Tomlin, which I’m sure most reading this already know. But that is where Tomlin learned the sort of coach Mann was.
And that is precisely why Tomlin brought him in—essentially out of retirement after four years out of the league, his first time not coaching since 1981—to instill in his wide receivers the values and the fundamentals that he felt were lacking.
Mann did his job and set up this group with important lessons that even Martavis Bryant has taken. Bryant helped convince Mann to stay one more year while the receivers was suspended in 2016. And I am optimistic that the Steelers have found a fitting physical and philosophical successor at the position on Drake.