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Steelers assistant coaches have impressive credentials

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 11:30 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Mike Tomlin was surrounded by head coaches while he tossed out ideas, attended meetings and made his voice heard during the annual NFL meetings this week.

He'll again toss out ideas, attend meetings and make his voice heard upon his return to the Steelers' South Side offices.

With the addition of former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak as offensive line coach, the Steelers have three head coaches working as assistants — the most of any NFL team. Both defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau (Bengals) and offensive coordinator Todd Haley (Chiefs) were head coaches.

Some coaches, especially those whose positions are less secure than Tomlin's, might feel uncomfortable having so many men on his staff who are accustomed to being in charge and now serving in subordinate roles again.

But Tomlin said most head coaches are hired because they did superior work as coordinators or position coaches, so why not hire them — especially when many likely are motivated to be head coaches again?

“It's not something that I set out to do. I think when given an opportunity to fill a position, you just look at the credible men, and they happen to be ex-head coaches in some instances and that's just part of it,” Tomlin said. “I think maybe we get head coaching opportunities because we're good at what we do. Me, by nature, I'm a secondary coach. Obviously, I wear a different hat in Pittsburgh, but it's my vocation. It's something that's put me in this position to do what it is I do today.”

Munchak was considered one of the NFL's best, if not the best, offensive line coaches before he was promoted to head coach by Tennessee in 2011.

He was offered the opportunity to return next season despite a 22-26 record in three seasons, but he was let go after he refused to fire some assistants that management wanted replaced.

To Tomlin, the reasons to hire Munchak had little to do with him being a former head coach and everything to do with what he could do working with a still relatively young line. David DeCastro and Mike Adams will be 24 during the season, Maurkice Pouncey and Kelvin Beachum will be 25, and Marcus Gilbert will be 26. The only starter approaching 30 is Ramon Foster (28).

“He is a guy that is fired up about football and the offensive line,” Tomlin said of Munchak, a former Penn State star and a Hall of Fame offensive lineman.

Former line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. was fired after only one season, apparently in part because Tomlin wanted a coach more experienced with the system the Steelers play.

“When you think of ‘Munch', you think of credibility, both as a player and as a coach,” Tomlin said. “And from my perspective, more importantly as a coach, a guy that's competed against him or a number of years, he's a guy that always has his guys prepared.

“Having worked with him over the past several months, he's a guy that has positive energy as it relates to the game. I just look forward to us benefiting from that.”

Tomlin didn't mention that Munchak's Titans beat the Steelers each of the past two seasons, including an upset win in the 2013 season opener at Heinz Field.

“Maybe ex-head coaches are good coaches,” Tomlin said. “We'll see how that works out. Hopefully, I'm not (an ex-head coach soon).”

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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