Despite the loss of veteran offensive line coach Mike Munchak during the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still expected to have one of the best top-to-bottom units in the NFL in 2019. In fact, longtime NFL analysts Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller, the hosts of ‘Movin’ The Chains’ on SiriusXM NFL Radio, both have the Steelers offensive line in their top 5 for the 2019 season.
— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) June 10, 2019
Miller has the Steelers offensive line ranked No. 4 overall and he explained the main reason for that during Monday’s show.
“Think they’re a little shaky at the right tackle spot,” Miller said of the Steelers offensive line. “Because you think about the past two years, they’ve lost some good players. Chris Hubbard went on and signed a pretty good deal with the Cleveland Browns and then this year they traded away Marcus Gilbert, who I thought was pretty good.”
Miller also pointed to the Steelers offseason loss of Munchak to the Denver Broncos as another reason why he couldn’t rank their offensive line higher than No. 4 overall.
“And then you take in the loss of a Hall of Fame coach in Munchak, who’s now out there for the Denver Broncos. [They] still have the same play caller and they elevated within in terms of their offensive line coach, so I like that for the Steelers,” Miller said. “And I still think that they’re strong because Big Ben can do a lot of things and manage a lot of things.”
Later in Monday’s show, Kirwan explained why he has the Steelers offensive line ranked No. 1 overall ahead of mandatory minicamp getting underway this week.
“Because last year they proved they can run the ball without Le’Veon Bell,” Kirwan stated. “They averaged 4.4 [yards] a carry and 7 touchdowns. They allowed one sack every 34 pass plays. They got enough depth here and they got better depth than you think.”
Kirwan was off on his touchdowns as the Steelers offense posted 16 total rushing scores in 2018, but we get his drift just the same.
Kirwan also pointed to the fact that the Steelers have three Pro Bowlers on their offensive line in tackle Alejandro Villanueva, center Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro as a reason for ranking their 2019 unit No. 1 overall. Additionally, he pointed out that left guard Ramon Foster is probably underrated by many.
Finally, Kirwan pointed to the Steelers offensive linemen low amount of penalties last season as yet another reason he ranked them ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Yeah, they lost their coach, but they are on a mission and it starts with this o-line,” Kirwan said. “Do not count out the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Honestly, it would be crazy for any analysts to rank the Steelers offensive line outside of their top 5 for 2019 at this point of the offseason. Sure, Marcus Gilbert was traded during the offseason but let;’s not forget that he barely played last season due to a lower leg injury and that he missed several games due to injures and a suspension dating back the last few seasons. The two players that replaced Gilbert last season, Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor, both did a respectable job at right tackle. Okorafor will likely be the starter at right tackle this season with Feiler still having a reserve role along with a another experienced backup that’s returning, B.J. Finney.
When it comes to the offseason loss of Munchak, his longtime assistant, Shaun Sarrett, is the one who is replacing the Hall of Famer. Sure, Sarrett doesn’t have the resume that Munchak does, but he did get to learn from him for quite a while and that counts for something.