It’s been a very active offseason so far for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We’ve seen seven new free agents signed to the team, so many that they’re going to need to hold a “new guy” orientation once OTAs open. Before free agency ever opened, the Steelers snagged quite possibly the most important new addition for 2014 when Mike Munchak signed on to be the offensive line coach.
Mike Munchak is a Hall of Fame guard who spent his entire NFL career with the Titans franchise, formerly the Houston Oilers. He spent his playing career going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers twice a season as a right guard for the Oilers. When the Titans fired him as head coach after the 2013 season he wasn’t actively looking for another coaching position. Mostly because the Titans are paying him what they owed for the 2014 season, about $3 million. Because of that, he didn’t need to take just any job that came along.
Munchak picked the Steelers because of the relationship he developed with head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley during the hiring process. He picked the city of Pittsburgh because he’s a fan of tradition, and tradition is one thing we’ve got plenty of around here. What the Steelers didn’t have, before Munchak, was stability on the offensive line. Munchak replaced Jack Bicknell Jr., who was fired after one season after he replaced Sean Kugler.
The Steelers have invested a lot of high-round draft picks on their offensive line over the past few years. What they haven’t had is any direct success as a result of all those picks working together on the line at the same time. There has been injuries and inconsistent play that has forced one change or another and Munchak was hired to put an end to all that. No one can prevent any further injuries, of course, but what Munchak can teach guys like Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert could possibly make it so the entire fan base doesn’t collectively gasp if there’s an injury on the line.
For a team whose defense is obviously in a transition, it was a smart move by the front office to grab Munchak for the sake of the offense. The Steelers offense has been woefully unproductive in the running game for the past two seasons, finishing at the bottom barrel in yards per carry and yards per game. If the team can be in a position to have the offense carry the team improving the running game has to be a part of that. An improvement to the running game can always be directly attributed to the play of the offensive line.
For Munchak to take the job with the Steelers when he didn’t need to take a job at all he’s putting himself out there big-time. He can afford to fail financially here in Pittsburgh, but his reputation won’t soon recover. Of all the free agent acquisitions and even before and players are drafted, Munchak is already the Steelers most important new addition for 2014.