The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line has been able to accomplish a number of impressive feats since the team signed Mike Munchak as their position coach in 2014. Just last season, they sent three starters to the Pro Bowl. They turned a backup into a player who earned a starter’s job with starter’s pay in free agency. And they’ve developed several undrafted free agents into legitimate contributors.
When all of this happens over a short period of time, it’s hard not to attribute quite a bit of that to the position coach, and if anybody deserves the credit, it’s Munchak. But he has yet another tough assignment ahead of him. after getting the most out of B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler, injuries and other circumstances have forced him to get the next group of players ready for action.
That includes the raw third-round pick Chukwuma Okorafor in the short-term, but they also have to develop for the long-term, and one of the players they may be able to work out in that regard is rookie college free agent R.J. Prince.
Initially a rookie minicamp tryout player who earned a contract to the 90-man roster, he has generally been on an upward trajectory, getting more playing time after Jerald Hawkins’ injury in May. Since Ramon Foster was injured, he has been pretty consistently with the second-team group.
He has been one of the main beneficiaries in these scenarios because Munchak sees it in him. “He has the physical tools, now it’s the speed of the game”, he told the team’s website about Prince. “You get in a game mentality and have to adjust to the guys next to you. He has a lot of potential. Now it’s seeing his technique, how he competes in plays”.
One of the things that he stresses—that all line coaches stress—for his backups is that he display position flexibility, and Munchak has already talked about that a lot in the context of a player like Feiler, who started at tackle before mastering guard and is now working his way into come center assignments.
For Prince, Munchak has him running back tackle and guard, and is appreciating how the rookie has handled it from both a physical and mental standpoint.
“Great kid. Great size. Very good attitude”, he said. “Playing both guard and tackle and doing a good job adjusting between the two. A nice, physical, good looking guy, adjusting to what we are doing. Everything is there – size, strength, long arms, desire. So far, so good”.
Realistically, Prince is probably looking at a practice squad spot by it’s rookie season, but it’s not as though that’s a bad place to be. That’s where Feiler and Finney started, and Chris Hubbard before them. Doug Legursky several years back also made the same graduation. Oh, and so did Alejandro Villanueva, who was one of those Pro Bowlers in 2018 that I mentioned up at the top.