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Steelers officially hire Munchak to coach offensive line

Reuters
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak watches the final seconds of their loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of their NFL football game in Atlanta, Georgia in this file photo taken November 20, 2011.

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By Alan Robinson
Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 11:06 a.m.
 

So the Steelers can land a high-profile free agent after all — former Titans head coach Mike Munchak is their new offensive line coach.

Munchak told the Steelers on Wednesday he was coming, and the two sides finalized a contract Wednesday night. The Steelers announced the hiring of the Pro Football Hall of Famer on Thursday.

“I am excited Mike will be joining our staff at the Pittsburgh Steelers,” coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. “Mike's offensive line background speaks for itself, both as a Hall of Fame player for the Houston Oilers and as a very successful line coach with the Tennessee Titans. I look forward to having him join our coaching staff as we have already started preparing for the 2014 season.”

Munchak turned down an offer to become the line coach on new coach Bill O'Brien staff with the Houston Texans to return to Pennsylvania. The former Penn State All-America lineman is a native of Scranton, where the street in front of Scranton High is named for him.

Munchak was reportedly offered a contract extension by the Titans after the season ended, only to be fired Jan. 4 after refusing to fire his two coordinators. He was a highly regarded line coach with the Titans/Oilers from 1997-2010, with his linemen combining to be picked for 10 Pro Bowls.

Munchak is the third Steelers offensive line coach in three seasons, succeeding Sean Kugler, who left last year to coach UTEP, and Jack Bicknell Jr., who lasted only one year on the job before being fired — in part because of some of the young linemen's struggles last season.

The Steelers now have four coaches with head coaching experience — Tomlin, coordinators Dick LeBeau — also a Hall of Famer — and Todd Haley and Munchak, who had a 22-26 record in three seasons with Tennessee. The Titans beat the Steelers each of the last two seasons.

Munchak interviewed for the Browns and Lions head coaching jobs but was not hired.

Munchak takes over an offensive line that has two proven guards in the steady Ramon Foster and the fast-developing David DeCastro, a three-time Pro Bowl center in Maurkice Pouncey, but questions at tackle.

Kelvin Beachum took over at left tackle one-quarter of the way through the season after Mike Adams lost the job, but he is undersized for a full-time NFL left tackle. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert was the lowest-rated starter along the offensive line, yet the Steelers still do not consider replacing him with Adams, a former second-round pick who settled into a backup role after being benched.

Pouncey also is recovering from a serious knee injury that occurred only eight plays into the season and might need a full year to heal.

Munchak was a nine-time Pro Bowl pick who played for the Oilers from 1982-93 and later was chosen for the NFL's all-decade team of the 1980s. He had been a part of the Oilers/Titans organization as a player, offensive assistant, assistant coach or head coach for 31 years, and his jersey No. 63 was retired in 1996.

While many former head coaches return to coordinators' jobs, Munchak never has been an offensive coordinator, and he told the Steelers he was comfortable returning to being a position coach.

Munchak, who turns 54 in March, taught the Titans' line the zone blocking scheme the Steelers attempted to install last season, only to abandon after Pouncey was hurt. Fernando Velasco, who replaced Pouncey as the Steelers' center last season, was one of his starters in Tennessee.

Munchak was succeeded as the Titans coach by former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, a former Steelers offensive coordinator.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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