Most of the people in the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line room, including their position coach, were impacted greatly by the five years that former offensive line coach Mike Munchak spent with the team from 2014 through the 2018 season. He departed for a job with the Denver Broncos after his contract with the Steelers was up in order to be closer to his family, particularly his granddaughter, in Denver.
But that doesn’t mean he’s gone and forgotten in Pittsburgh. Or that the ties that he created here were suddenly severed just because he took another job—a lateral position, of all things—with another organization. Everyone who worked with him remains fond of and close to him.
“If I have a problem I’m going to lean on him”, new offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett acknowledged. Sarrett, who has been with the team since 2012, two years before Munchak, was his assistant for the five years he was here and essentially groomed him to take over. The Steelers immediately hired Sarrett for the promotion once Munchak’s move was finalized.
“He’s been great to me, great through the transition”, Sarrett said of his continuing relationship with Munchak, who has gone from a team with one of the most talented and accomplished group of offensive linemen in the league to one that is more of a project. Of course, he took on the Steelers’ line as a project and turned it into what it is now, so that’s nothing new for him.
Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva also spoke of the fact that his friendship with Munchak continues in spite of the fact that they no longer work for the same organization. “We still have a very good relationship”, he said. “We send him videos all the time, sort of like an ex-girlfriend, with the things that he’s missing out here in Pittsburgh”.
After he accepted the job in Denver, Munchak spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and explained that the decision was about family, ultimately, and that he was close to staying. One of the reasons that he was comfortable with the move was because he knew that he was leaving the group in a good position, both in terms of the available personnel and the man taking over for him.
His last two seasons as offensive line coach saw the Steelers send three linemen to the Pro Bowl, including Villanueva for the first time. Maurkice Pouncey at center had already been an All-Pro before his arrival, but made it there again in 2018. David DeCastro came into his own once Munchak arrived as well.
And so his presence continues to be felt both metaphorically and literally in Pittsburgh. There is certainly no animosity between the sides as they continue to communicate and forge friendships and working relationships, though that shouldn’t surprise anybody.