Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak was widely, and rightly, credited with playing a central role in reshaping the team’s trenches into one of the top units in the NFL, although investments in the draft—they selected four linemen in the top two rounds from 2010 through 2012—didn’t hurt.
Over the past five years, the line grew from a liability to a major strength, and they have spent three linemen to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two years. Under Munchak’s tenure, offensive linemen such as Marcus Gilbert, Alejandro Villanueva, B.J. Finney, Matt Feiler, and Chris Hubbard either completely developed or took their game to another level. Even David DeCastro could fall into that group.
With Munchak accepting a job in Denver to be closer to his granddaughter, however, the linemen are meeting the new boss—same as the old boss. That would be Shaun Sarrett, who was Munchak’s assistant for his entire tenure.
In fact, Sarrett was here for two years prior to Munchak’s arrival. He was even credited with quietly assuming the primarily offensive line duties during Jack Bicknell, Jr.’s one season with the group in 2013 before he was fired a year later. Had Munchak not become available, it’s possible, even likely, that Sarrett would have succeeded him then, rather than now.
And the linemen who have been here throughout that time are not seeing a lot of changes, since they have been working with Sarrett as Munchak’s right-hand man, and even co-instructor, for the past five years. Just as Finney, who originally came in as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
“Coach Sarrett’s been under Munch for the last five years”, he told Mike Prisuta in a sideline interview for the team’s website during OTAs last week. “So it’s the same continuity, same stuff. Same teachings. If you guys want to write about something that’s missing, it’s Munch’s dry sense of humor. That’s what we’re missing. So, we just keep on moving”.
“Shaun has a great sense of humor”, he added, “but he ain’t as dry as Munch”.
That is surely not to dismiss the impact that Munchak had on this team and how good of an instructor that he is. in fact, it is perhaps if anything a direct reflection of that, because Sarrett was his apprentice of sorts. That he would be able to take over relatively seamlessly is a tribute to Munchak.
One of the reasons that he felt okay with leaving was the fact that he was comfortable leaving this group in Sarrett’s hands. How do we know this? He said it himself. “The best part with me leaving, they’re left in great hands. I always thought as a lineman, that’s the hardest thing is to have new coach after new coach come in. He’ll be able to pick up where he and I left off and just add to it and continue to develop these guys. The room’s in a great, great situation”.