Everybody in an NFL organization, including the players, may have designated titles, but their roles and responsibilities blur when you get down to the work that is actually involved. As a recent example, Mike Munchak was the team’s offensive line coach, but he also helped to put together the team’s gameplan pertaining to the running game.
All coaches, at least on a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, have the freedom to offer their input wherever it may be useful. As head coach Mike Tomlin frequently says, he doesn’t care where good ideas come from, because it’s all about winning.
And so while Ike Hilliard may have been brought in to coach up the wide receivers, an unspoken part of his job is also building a relationship with the quarterbacks. And Ben Roethlisberger is just as interested in developing that relationship with Hilliard, so that he and his targets are on the same page.
“The best way for me to get to know him and to kind of get on the same page with him is just communicate”, he told reporters when speaking to the media on Tuesday. “We try and spend time talking, both on the field yesterday a little bit, as well as in the meeting rooms and walking in between meetings and things like that”.
He gave an example of the routine, namely, “him asking me if I cared about the rotation of the receivers, and I asked him what his thought was on the rotation. Literally just communicating and talking. And I trust him that he’s going to get those guys, as ready to go as anybody could, because he wants them to be great as much as anybody”.
Hilliard, who is a former first-round wide receiver himself who had a 12-year NFL career and has been coaching the wide receiver position at the NFL level for a decade, is new to the team, of course, and is inheriting a young group of players.
Literally every single wide receiver on the roster is 26 years or younger, and the core four players are all 24 years old or younger, with JuJu Smith-Schuster, their number one target, still 23, and rookie second-round pick Chase Claypool now 22 years old.
The wide receivers have also had three different position coaches working with them in the past three years, Hilliard now representing a fourth, though the circumstances behind this turnover were beyond anybody’s control.
It’s just another layer of the process that the Steelers have to learn to contend with this year in what has been the most complicated offseason in the majority of our lifetimes—perhaps since World War II forced teams to combine rosters, as the Steagles can attest to in 1943.