Munchak enjoying another opportunity to coach
Mike Munchak always has been an offensive lineman at heart.
He loved playing the position for a dozen years, and his excellence landed him in the Hall of Fame. He also enjoyed coaching it just as much for 14 more years.
Then Munchak became a head coach, and when one is a head coach, one doesn't do much coaching.
Munchak found that out the past three years as Tennessee Titans head coach.
Now he's back to what he loves: coaching
“There's nothing like being the guy, organizing practices and stuff like that,” said Munchak, who was hired by the Steelers as their offensive line coach in March. “It's a challenge, and I absolutely love it.”
Munchak's challenge is large: find a way to motivate an underachieving, yet highly skilled offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback and pump life into what has been a lifeless running game.
“It's a challenge,” Munchak said. “It's a challenge to take guys like we have here and try to figure out what is the best way to use them. You have to have a plan.
“There is a lot of thinking that goes into how we practice. I enjoy planning for ‘this guy can play here, and this guy can play there.'”
The Steelers running game hit rock bottom last year.
Its 1,383 yards were its worst ever in a 16-game season. So was its 24.6 carries per game.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was getting sacked at a record pace early on until the team went to its no-huddle/quick passing game over the second half of the season.
One of the issues was line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., who lost the offensive line room almost immediately in his first year.
He was fired not long after the end of last season.
Munchak doesn't have to worry about gaining his players' respect.
“If you don't listen to a Hall of Famer, then there's something wrong,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “All the guys respect him.”
Or as tackle Marcus Gilbert put it: “It's like, ‘Wow, we have a Hall of Fame coach who you can really learn from and get better.' ”
What has made Munchak an instant success with the linemen is his teaching technique.
Munchak has nearly an hour of individual time with the unit during practices and makes the most of it by changing up and inventing new drills to keep the unit sharp and learning.
“What makes him special is that he is very thorough and takes his time and explains exactly what he wants from us,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said. “There is no gray area at all. It's black and white. He's creative with some of the blocking schemes that we have. It just brings something different to the table that we didn't have.”
The Steelers will continue to run their gap-blocking scheme but will add the outside zone as well. However, the most notable difference has been with the emphasis on power pulling plays.
Munchak has installed more blocking schemes to take advantage of Pouncey and David DeCastro's pulling ability. Even though the Steelers didn't run much against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, instead deciding to feature the no-huddle, the offensive line is miles ahead of where it was last year.
“Hopefully, if I am successful, I am here for a long time,” Munchak said. “I would love to coach 10 more years here and retire and be done with it and have a few more trophies. If an opportunity comes later, then that's great, but I just want to do what I am doing and do it well.”