It didn’t take very long for Alejandro Villanueva to become one of the most respected players in the locker room. Hell, he pretty much became that as soon as he was signed to the practice squad in 2014 as a defensive end and moved to offensive tackle. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ blindside protector is now a two-time Pro Bowler and widely regarded as an All-Pro human being.
And there is little that he likes more than talking about how great offensive line coach Mike Munchak is. the Hall of Fame guard turned expert coach was hired by the Steelers in 2014, the same year Villanueva first came into town, so he was critical in, frankly, turning him into a multi-millionaire.
It’s hard to know if Villanueva could have developed into anything like the player he is now without an instructor like Munchak. He certainly would tell you that he wouldn’t have. Even David DeCastro credits Munchak for making him who he is as a player.
“He is truly the most special football person I’ve ever met”, Villanueva told Aditi Kinkhabwala about Munchak earlier this week as the reports began to surface that he was one of the most desirable candidates for head coaching vacancies on the market. His first of at least three interviews is scheduled to take place today.
Munchak “understands how to coach players today”, he went on, describing him as “very intelligent” and a “poker player”. Nevertheless, he said, with hesitation, regarding the possibility of landing a head coaching job with another team, “I would love for him to be happy because he deserves it”.
Munchak was a finalist for the head coaching position in Arizona last year, but he ultimately chose to withdraw himself as the process narrowed down, wanting to remain in Pittsburgh with his family. The offers and opportunities appear to be sweetening, however, after sending three players to the Pro Bowl for the second consecutive year.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joked on his radio show that he thought everybody should stop talking so glowingly about Munchak at every opportunity in the hopes that the Steelers could keep him for themselves by making him less desirable.
There is no doubt that he would be hard to replace. I even have already argued that the team should consider offering him a promotion to assistant head coach, which is perhaps a role that he may already serve informally. His tasks do extend beyond teaching technique to the offensive line.
Should he indeed return to the head coaching ranks, however, assistant offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett would surely be the in-house promotion, and he has been here for years now. Both Villanueva and DeCastro have singled him out for praise this past year unprompted.