While Mike Tomlin is the presiding authority, he prefers to run the Pittsburgh Steelers more democratically. He owns final say over everything that happens, and thus ultimately bears responsibility for everything that happens, but he is open to entertaining input no matter where it comes from—even if there is a hierarchy.
Position assistants are pretty low on the hierarchy, so when Shaun Sarrett moved up from assistant offensive line coach to offensive line coach in 2019, inheriting that role after Mike Munchak departed to join the Denver Broncos last season, that came with it a change not just in his coaching role, but his ‘advisory’ one as well.
It was known, for example, that Munchak did more than just train the offensive line. Informally, he was also viewed as something of a run game coordinator. Sarrett didn’t say that he took over that informal role when he spoke to reporters last week, but he did acknowledge that there was a bit more on his plate.
“As a whole, we work on the game plan together. It’s not just Coach Randy or even the tight ends or whatever. It’s all of us”, he said. “We go into a room and we formulate a plan and we stick to that plan. For me being a first-year guy, you’re gonna have those jitters and stuff, but it’s just one of those things you’re gonna work yourself through”.
“You get more comfortable as the games progress”, he added. “I was already comfortable with the guys, per se, but just the game-planning part probably, a little bit, yeah”. Sarrett has actually been with the linemen since 2012, so he has been here as long as any lineman short of Maurkice Pouncey.
Prior to being hired by the Steelers, Sarrett worked with the Duke University Blue Devils as an offensive quality control coach beginning in 2008, and as a graduate assistant for two years prior at Marshall. He coached the offensive and defensive lines at Streetsboro High school for a short time before that, having been a three-year letterman himself at Kent State, where he earned the nickname—very much still in use—of ‘Sweet Feet’.
In his first season as offensive line coach a year ago, he did watch both Pouncey and David DeCastro make the Pro Bowl, which they do just about every season, at least for which they are healthy. It was the first season since 2016 that Alejandro Villanueva, however, did not join them.
The line play is generally regarded as having taken a step back last season, but there are many contributing factors, including the revolving door at quarterback. This year, with Ramon Foster retiring, he is in charge of retooling the line, moving Matt Feiler to left guard and pitting Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner against each other to start at right tackle. That’s a lot on his plate already without his input on game plans.