Joe Starkey of triblive.com calls Richard Mann "old school," and thinks that his take on football is the healthy progressive step Pittsburgh wide receivers need to re-establish themselves among the top of the league. It's only fitting that after declaring to be "young money" and failing to produce a receiver with over 1,000 yards in 2012, that maybe some of that old school feel comes back to a group that was considered one of the best in the NFL not too long ago.
Mann is one of the older coaches on the Steelers staff, at 65 years of age, and was brought in this year to focus on what many people thought was lost in the "young money" era: fundamentals. Tomlin's choice of Mann as a coach undoubtedly came from their experience together in 2002 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the Steelers lost their receivers coach of 2012, Scottie Montgomery, to Duke University. Montgomery was 35, younger than Plaxico Burress, and Mann was known as an older, all-about-the-details coach. It was definitely seen as a change in tone.
Jerricho Cotchery referred to Mann's coaching style as "very detailed" and outlined a picture of a man who wanted to make 2013 a sort of back-to-basics year. The former Jets receiver said that coaches like Mann are important for keeping younger wide receivers disciplined and focusing on what they are assigned, rather than doing what they thought may be better for a particular scheme.
Mann's timing is in response to a failure of a passing of the torch from the previous receiving corps in Pittsburgh to this one. In 2009 the team looked to be set at the position, despite missing the playoffs, with veteran Hines Ward leading the way, a young but seasoned Santonio Holmes consistently making plays, and a the ever speedy Mike Wallace having a solid rookie campaign. Ward brought leadership and had a mentality that made receivers around him work harder for the team and play better as a unit. He knew how to mentor a star in Holmes, while also knowing how to work with struggling players like Limas Sweed.
In the Super Bowl 43 run, after Sweed dropped an open touchdown in the AFC Championship game Ward made sure he was the first person to talk to Sweed who had already had a tough season. The next time Steeler fans saw Sweed, he de-cleated Ravens corner Corey Ivy, in a Hines Ward style peel back block. That day, among several others, showed what Ward brought to the table for the Steelers as a leader.
But Santonio Holmes was traded to the Jets after 2009 and Hines Ward would retire after 2011. Leaving Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders to carry on the legacy left behind from a group that had two Super Bowl MVPs in Holmes and Ward during their time in Pittsburgh. Needless to say, the "young money crew" have not lived up to the standard of their predecessors.
This is where Richard Mann comes into play. The Steelers didn't need a details oriented old-school receivers coach while Ward was there, but now this approach acknowledges the unit lacks the strong commander that Ward was for the Steelers' locker room. Not that this is a major demerit to Brown or Sanders from their era of receivers, because Ward was a special receiver that could have been a legend in any era of the NFL. But it does show that Tomlin recognizes the change of the tide, and is righting his ship so it can get back to sailing on-course.