New Castle News

Sports

January 23, 2014

Pro Football: Munchak to join Steelers’ staff

PITTSBURGH — Mike Munchak is going back to his roots, and heading closer to home in the process.

A person familiar with the decision said Wednesday night the former Tennessee Titans head coach will join the Pittsburgh Steelers as offensive line coach. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet official.

The hiring was first reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Munchak was fired by the Titans on Jan. 4 after leading Tennessee to a 22-26 record in three seasons. The 53-year-old had a year left on his contract, but was let go after 31 seasons as a player or coach with the club due to differences with upper management about the direction of the franchise.

He interviewed with the Steelers recently to replace Jack Bicknell Jr., who was fired earlier this month. Munchak also spoke to Cleveland and Detroit about their head coaching vacancies as well as Penn State, where he played under Joe Paterno from 1978-81.

Munchak grew up in Scranton, Pa., rooting for the “Super Steelers” of the 1970s. Now the Hall of Fame guard finds himself in charge of a unit that has struggled to stay healthy or play with any consistency in recent years.

The Steelers went 8-8 in 2013, rallying from a 2-6 start to avoid the franchise’s first losing record in a decade. Pittsburgh did it despite losing star center Maurkice Pouncey eight plays into the season — against the Titans — for the season with a major knee injury.

It kick-started a fitful fall that saw the Steelers use four centers and forced Bicknell to play mix-and-match with the other line positions depending on who was healthy.

The constant shuffling, combined with significant step backs in play by second-year left tackle Mike Adams and third-year right tackle Marcus Gilbert, stunted the growth of Pittsburgh’s offense. The Steelers ranked 27th in the league in yards rushing (1,383) and 29th in yards per attempt (3.5).

While running back Le’Veon Bell set a team record for yards from scrimmage by a rookie, he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and spent most of his time mincing his steps at the line of scrimmage waiting for holes that sometimes failed to open.

The line struggled to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger early in the season, giving up 36 sacks through the first nine games. Those numbers dipped significantly later in the season, a combination of improved play and Pittsburgh’s move to a no-huddle offense.

Munchak, who made nine Pro Bowls during his 12-year career with the Houston Oilers from 1982-93, was considered one of the best line coaches in the NFL before ascending to head coach in 2011.

 

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