Offensive linemen embracing new Steelers assistant Munchak
The Steelers are convinced their offensive line didn't need reconstruction as much as it did different instruction.
That's why new assistant coach Mike Munchak — you might have heard the name — isn't overhauling the only Steelers unit that returns every starter from last season. He also isn't putting in his system and totally junking the one used during the brief Jack Bicknell Jr. tenure.
“The terminology is somewhat staying the same,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “He is just tweaking a thing here or there.”
What Munchak wants to tweak most during the four weeks of offseason workouts that began this week are the intangibles that fans don't see when David DeCastro pulls to block for Le'Veon Bell or Beachum positions himself to block for Ben Roethlisberger.
Munchak, the Tennessee Titans coach from 2011-13 following a long run as their line coach, thinks he has “a special group here” — and he wants them to believe the same thing.
Munchak is implementing the zone-blocking scheme that was shelved following center Maurkice Pouncey's season-ending injury in Week 1. Munchak is considered one of the best teachers of it and is convinced the Steelers will benefit from it.
He also is learning about this group — starters Beachum, Ramon Foster, Pouncey, DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert and backups Mike Adams, Cody Wallace, Guy Whimper, Wesley Johnson and others — and what makes it tick. He is working to build trust, confidence and continuity, elements that weren't always present last season.
Munchak told the linemen he is a coach who adjusts to them rather than being one who insists the linemen adjust to him.
“He understands each player is different. He understands how to cater to everyone,” Ramon Foster said of Munchak, a Pro Football Hall of Fame guard. “The respect factor is very high. … It's a joy right now to be taking advice and coaching from him.”
“He knows what you're going through,” Beachum said. “He knows that you're going to get beat sometimes, which is part of the National Football League. He also knows how to excel.”
There also appears to be more attention to detail.
“He's really big on technique,” Foster said. “He keeps saying, ‘Technique is what's going to get you there.' Sometimes as pros, coaches may not do the small things, like working on feet separation or the hands, but he's big on that.”
Having new personnel such as rookie speedster Dri Archer and power runner LeGarrette Blount will require additional blocking schematics that Munchak will draw up and implement.
“(We're not going to be) devoted to just one thing and that being the only thing that we live by,” Beachum said.
Doing so will require the full installation of that much-discussed outside zone-blocking package the Steelers worked on last season but utilized only briefly.
Several linemen said having the line moving and blocking in tandem rather than just gap-blocking creates more preparation for defenses, is more difficult to decipher at the line and plays to the strengths of a relatively young and mobile Steelers unit.
“He has knowledge of it, and we're getting more practice reps with it,” Foster said. “It's not like it's a big deal, like it's the whole offense, but him being able to coach it and having done it for years, I think that's one of the biggest things right there.
“We should succeed with it, but it's all dependent on us.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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