There was much pulling of hair, gnashing of teeth, and jumping off of bridges when it first became clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be losing Mike Munchak to the Denver Broncos, who took a lateral post in the AFC West city primarily in order to be closer to his daughters, one of whom lives in the area and recently had a daughter of her own.
In the months that followed, however, the sky has not fallen on the offensive line, and in fact the group looks to be about as deep from the first man to the 15th as they have been in quite some time, or perhaps ever.
Shaun Sarrett has overseen this group in his first year as the offensive line coach, but he spent the five seasons during which Munchak was in Pittsburgh as his assistant, and in fact had been with the team for two years even prior to that. He came in the same year David DeCastro was drafted, in 2012, and Munchak felt comfortable leaving a line group he loved in Sarrett’s hands.
Tim Benz recently talked to DeCastro as part of his Breakfast With Benz podcast, and asked him if he felt the cohesion and continuity of the offensive line was even more important this year with the changes taking place on offense, particularly at wide receiver with Antonio Brown gone.
“I just think it’s key no matter what. It’s a group that’s really important”, he said. “Obviously, we take pride in it and proving we can do it without a guy like Munch, who’s been here for a while, helped us a lot, and I think we learned a lot from him. I think Shaun Sarrett’s doing a great job and looking forward to just getting back out there”.
It’s interesting to see him note that the Steelers are actually taking it as a bit of a challenge to continue to step up and perform toward the top of the league without Munchak, as though they feel slighted. Some have almost suggested that the group will fall apart in Munchak’s absence, but Sarrett has been here all the while.
DeCastro said that there’s “no question” the transition from Munchak to Sarrett has been smooth this offseason, now just weeks away from the regular season getting underway, something that he said back in the spring is what he expected. The Steelers hired Adrian Klemm to work as Sarrett’s assistant.
“We’ve all been under him, and he’s been part of that”, the lineman said. “Sarrett’s been here as long as I have. I’ve seen him grow up as I’ve grown. At the end of the day, we respect him, we respect the work he puts in, and he respects us, so it’s a good relationship. But at the end of the day we still have to go out there and play hard”.
It’s clear that this is a group that has a lot of respect for the instructional work and guidance that it is provided, but also one that has a lot of pride in the players’ own abilities and in the belief that they are responsible for their own success. That seems like a healthy outlook to me.