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: Do the Steelers feel added pressure to keep the offensive line intact due to Mike Munchak’s departure?
This is a topic that I have been toying around with addressing for a couple of weeks now since we learned that the Steelers might be losing Mike Munchak as their offensive line coach. Now that that has already happened, and Art Rooney II has said that the team would like to keep the offensive line together, it seems like the ideal time to discuss it.
At the moment, the Steelers have four of their five starting offensive linemen under contract for 2019, though both Maurkice Pouncey and Marcus Gilbert are in the final years of their contracts. Pouncey, 29, made the Pro Bowl yet again and likely will receive an extension. Gilbert will turn 31 in less than a month and has missed the majority of the past two seasons due to injury and suspension.
The only starter who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent is left guard Ramon Foster, who turned 33 earlier this month. He has been pretty open both about his love and appreciation for the franchise and about the fact that he understands that this is likely the last opportunity he will have to ‘cash in’ on his football career. He took arguably below-market extensions twice already to stay in Pittsburgh, but time is running out.
While B.J. Finney—a restricted free agent—and Matt Feiler have both filled in well or even very well at left guard and right tackle, respectively, in Foster’s and Gilbert’s positions, the Steelers are not in a rush to turn over their offensive line.
You always want to keep good players around, of course, but how much added pressure is there to keep this group together as they transition from Munchak to his assistant, Shaun Sarrett, who will be a senior offensive lien coach for the first time in his career?