A couple weeks ago, all I saw were “the sky is falling” articles when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line. The unit wasn’t good. Over the hill. And it proved Mike Munchak was the biggest loss of the offseason.
There’s zero debate losing Munchak to the Denver Broncos was a loss but fast forward to today, a week after they schooled the Los Angeles Chargers defensive line, and you’re not hearing those end-of-the-world proclamations anymore.
In fact, in some respects, the line is on a historic pace. They’ve given up just five sacks in six games, fewest in football, and the best mark in franchise history.
To hear new offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett tell it, not much has changed at all. Certainly not the faces up front nor the process in getting their guys ready.
“I think we’re ready for the games,” he told reporters via the team website. “I don’t think the process has changed. We’re still doing the same things we were doing even when Munch was here. I maybe tweaked a few things here and there but the process is still the same. We’re doing the things we need to do. We just need to get better at it.”
The line has remained a strength of the offense, especially in a year where there’s been turmoil and injuries are virtually every other level. To be fair, they’ve struggled in games, San Francisco was particularly ugly, but they’ve played their best football over the past three weeks. And the starters have played roughly as expected across the board.
Sarrett also has followed in Munchak’s footsteps in developing unheralded players. Zach Banner, who granted, was signed last year with Munchak still the coach, has stepped into a serious role. He’s a backup tackle, though it remains unclear if he’d actually play left tackle, and functioned as the team’s 6th offensive linemen in jumbo packages. He’s logged 53 such snaps and played his best football in the win over the Chargers.
Keeping continuity within the group was vital and why Sarrett always made sense to replace Munchak. He’d been Munchak’s assistant the entire time in Pittsburgh and had the respect of the room, known for his tireless work ethic and attention to detail. The Steelers smartly hired an assistant for him, Adrian Klemm, and so far, Pittsburgh’s gotten similar, productive results.
Of course, like any good coach, Sarrett is a perfectionist. He knows where the team still has to improve.
“[The run game is] something we take pride in. And that’s something we gotta continue to get better at.”
Pittsburgh ranks tied for 27th at 3.5 yards per carry while their four rushing touchdowns ranks middle of the pack. They’ll get a chance to jumpstart those numbers after the bye, taking on a Miami Dolphins’ front allowing 4.7 yards per carry and nearly 170 yards per game.