When the Pittsburgh Steelers first got the opportunity to bring in Mike Munchak, the organization was waist-deep into a rebuilding phase along the offensive line. They had already tried the investment approach, using two first- and two second-round picks on offensive linemen over the course of the three previous drafts, but the end result wasn’t there yet.
Sean Kugler did well here for the most part. Jack Bicknell, Jr., did not, and he only lasted one season. Then Munchak fell into their laps, and they were able to persuade him to move back into the role of offensive line coach after spending three seasons as a head coach.
And what a difference that made. All you have to do is just listen to how the linemen talk about him—or how he talks about the linemen. You may have noticed him appear in a video about Alejandro Villanueva recently in which he said of his left tackle that working with him has left him a better coach and a better person for having known him. Villanueva has never skimped on praising Munchak, either.
He recently said of his coach, “he is truly the most special football person I’ve ever met”. Previously Villanueva called him “a great man. A great human”, saying, “because he’s a great person, you have a lot of respect for the way he approaches the game, the way he loves the game, the way that he understands how the position should be played”.
Marcus Gilbert talked about Munchak’s demands of his players and why the offensive line has always been so willing and eager to stick together and to work together. The starting offensive line even works beyond what they might ordinarily see during the preseason, in part because of the unity Munchak helped forge within the group.
From Missi Matthews, David DeCastro said of Munchak after the season, “I can’t say enough about him”, calling him “one of those figures you’ll always remember in your life and have great memories with”. He along with pretty much every other lineman almost exclusively credits the coach for turning them into the players they are today.
I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from his now former linemen in the coming days, and from Mike Tomlin and others as well. We’ll no doubt here from Munchak as well as he begins the next chapter in his football journey, and one that brings him closer to family.
Losing a coach and a person like him is an inevitable blow to the organization, and it’s fair to say that he left a lasting impact on this group of players. It’s unfortunate that the younger ones like Chukwuma Okorafor will not have gotten a longer time to spend with him.
But his impact will continue to be felt by those whom he taught, and that includes the Steelers’ new offensive line coach, Shaun Sarrett, a man we’ll surely be getting to know more in the coming months, even though he’s been here for quite a while by now.