The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How much of an impact will the loss of Mike Munchak have on the quality of play of the offensive line?
For once, the big news of the day for the Steelers this offseason wasn’t something about Antonio Brown. While that in itself is a good thing, the news was bad, as we learned that offensive line coach Mike Munchak chose to accept a lateral job offer with the Denver Broncos, where he will get the opportunity to live close to his daughter and her family, and likely also received a significant raise in an organization in which there is obviously more room for upward movement.
The 58-year-old spent the past five years reshaping the Steelers’ offensive line. While a lot of people want to talk about the investments the team has made in draft picks, however, the reality is that for the bulk of the past two seasons, three fifths of their starting line has consisted of former undrafted free agents. And he was responsible for coaching up every single one of them. only Chris Hubbard spent one year on the practice squad before his arrival.
There’s no question that Munchak has had a profound effect not just on the offensive line, but on the whole team by extension. Look at some of the great offensive lines around the league right now. The majority of the top teams in that regard all made it to the playoffs.
But Shaun Sarrett has been a part of that growth as well, something that Alex Kozora has gotten a chance to glimpse more than most of us thanks to his coverage of training camp every year, watching him worth with Munchak and the linemen.
There’s a reason the Steelers were so quick to name Sarrett the next coach. They probably knew all along that Munchak was likely to leave at some point, and that Sarrett would be the next in line. That day is here now. What will it have in store for this group?