If it were not David DeCastro, then I think it should have been Alejandro Villanueva who won the Pittsburgh Steelers’ annual award for their relationship with the media. Following a bit of obfuscation while he was practicing without a contract, the third-year veteran has faced the firing squad whenever necessary.
No better example of that came when he volunteered for a media session following a press conference to address the Steelers’ miscalculated anthem strategy, which he was inadvertently in the heart of. He did not enjoy that at all, but he did it because he has a sense of duty.
One thing he will freely talk about all day, however, is how great everybody around him is, and he often reserves especially mention for the man who has built him up into the player he is today, offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
As Munchak presumably prepares for an interview with the Arizona Cardinals for their vacant position at head coach, some of his players have given their thoughts on what his presence over the past four seasons as meant to them.
“He created an offensive line and an offensive line is not about individuals, it’s about the collective culture you have in the room” Villanueva told Will Graves of the Associated Press. “I’ve been nothing more than a product of his environment, the standards that he sets and the way he coaches”.
Villanueva made his first Pro Bowl this season, but Munchak’s group also sent two others there, including David DeCastro, whose Pro Bowl streak only began with his arrival. DeCastro talked about how he instructs in helpful and non-aggressive ways, making a joke at a player’s expense that nevertheless will stick and teach a lesson.
Chris Hubbard, though, may be his greatest pupil. He was a practice squad player when Munchak arrived, and made the roster in 2014 under the new position coach. He has since played all five positions in-game along the offensive line and has played extensively as an extra lineman.
“He treats everybody the same, he has no favorites”, Hubbard told Graves. “That’s a big part of what we have. That’s why we’re so close. We can talk about anything that may go on”. Those who observe training camp can attest to that fact, including our own Alex Kozora.
“He understands the game so well so it makes you feel very comfortable when you talk to him about things”, Villanueva said of Munchak. “He’s not panicking or freaking out when some things are not going right. He’s always the same consistent person every single day”.
“He teaches us to care about one another and we take that onto the field. We care about his family, his well-being, We care about his reputation. We take that very personally”.
I would think that the Steelers’ play along the offensive line, particularly over the past two seasons, has reflected well upon Munchak, and built up his reputation. After all, it got him an interview.