Colin Dunlap: With Munchak, Steelers Must Improve
Now, the Steelers better be better. They must get better.
Going 8-8 isn’t going to cut it anymore.
On Wednesday night, reports began to trickle that Mike Munchak would soon be named the Steelers offensive line coach, replacing Jack Bicknell, Jr., who was shown the door after just one season. As the evening pushed forward, those reports were confirmed by the Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette, the Steelers Insider for Sportsradio 93.7 The Fan.
This move now secures a Steelers coaching staff made up of three former NFL head coaches, as Munchak (Titans 2011-13) is joined by offensive coordinator Todd Haley (Chiefs 2009-11) and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau (Bengals 2000-02) to work as lieutenants alongside head coach Mike Tomlin.
This is, no doubt, a glaring positive.
This is, no doubt, a deep commitment to trying to get a whole lot better.
This is, no doubt (on the surface at least), a home run, slam dunk hire.
Know what else the addition of Munchak should bring on the Steelers, however? An enormous amount of pressure to win in 2014 — or at least vastly improve from the back-to-back .500 seasons the franchise has stumbled through during the past 32 games.
Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 after a career in which he was a 10-time All-Pro selection with the Houston Oilers, the Scranton native shifted right into coaching just a year removed from playing. Munchak quickly became one of the most respected offensive line coaches in the NFL, first with the Oilers and then with the Titans before undertaking head coaching duties in Tennessee.
This isn’t some run-of-the-mill offensive line coach like Bicknell was or Sean Kugler was before him or the non-computer-savvy Larry Zierlein was before that.
No. This is Mike Munchak, a man with a street named after him — Mike Munchak Way — right there in front of his high school in Scranton, Pa.
This is the same Munchak who commanded offensive lines in the past that allowed running backs such as Chris Johnson and Eddie George to rise to prominence behind tenacious yet incredibly technical zone-blocking schemes.
And that’s what he’s going to be counted on to do here in Pittsburgh. Well, that and make sure to keep Ben Roethlisberger upright while helping the career of running back Le’Veon Bell evolve.
With Munchak taking the job, he doesn’t necessarily walk into a situation that is dire, as center Maurkice Pouncey should bounce back productively from injury, guard David DeCastro has elevated his game to among the best in the AFC and Kelvin Beachum, Marcus Gilbert and even Mike Adams showed improvement on the edge as the year progressed.
For Tomlin and Steelers, this was a no-brainer hire if Munchak was willing to come to Pittsburgh and coach the offensive line. With the hire, though, there comes an increased burden on the staff to win in 2014. Not a small increase, but a vast one.
That is to say, with Mike Tomlin missing the playoffs the past two season and now flanked by a staff with three former NFL head coaches, if there is another disappointing season, the Rooney family should not stand idly by.
Something would need to change. Something big would need to change.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.