The Pittsburgh Steelers have won four straight games and continue to “stack wins.” After their 23-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, the team has to move on quickly as they prepare to face the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field on Thursday Night Football in Week 10.
Today we talk about how Matt Feiler, a man many projected to be cut by the Steelers before the season, has become this year’s Chris Hubbard. Feiler has stepped in for injured Marcus Gilbert the past two games and the offense hasn’t missed a beat. Feiler has stepped up big time in pass protection and has helped pave the way for James Conner to run wild.
Some will say Feiler’s success falls on the broad shoulders of Mike Munchak. I’d agree, and Feiler is just the latest project-turned-starter for ‘Magic’ Mike Munchak.
Let’s get to the news:
Mike Munchak continues to work his magic with Steelers offensive line
By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Maurkice Pouncey is one of the most gregarious and well-liked individuals in the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room. But that doesn’t mean, by his own admission, he doesn’t have some stubbornness.
So when Mike Munchak arrived as Pouncey’s third position coach over his four-plus seasons in the NFL, Pouncey acknowledged, at first, he was skeptical. Then, when Munchak began instructing new techniques the Steelers largely veteran offensive line hadn’t employed, well…
“Heck yeah, at first, a little bit. You are so used to doing the things you like,” Pouncey said. “But it didn’t take long before you began to see the difference that he could make, that he would make.”
And he continues to make.
Munchak presides over an offensive line that some are saying might be the best in the league, one that serves as the engine for an offense that ranks fourth in the league in yards and fifth in points heading into Sunday’s game at Baltimore. Only one team has allowed fewer sacks than the Steelers (seven through seven games). According to Pro Football Focus, a lineman has been beaten to allow Ben Roethlisberger to be hit just four times.
Oh, and the Steelers boast the AFC’s leading rusher, too.
It all reflects well on the team’s offensive linemen, all of whom, in turn, are willing to deflect credit to the offensive line coach.
“With his ability to connect with guys and the reputation he has and the respect he commands,” tackle Marcus Gilbert said, “he’s a big reason why we are who we are.”
No matter who it’s coached by, the Steelers offensive line has a combination of talent and experience matched by few teams in the NFL. The five starters combine for 38 pro seasons and more than $31 million in salary cap space (sixth-most of any team). The group has combined for 10 Pro Bowl berths and seven first- or second-team All Pro honors.
But that doesn’t explain the lineage of low-pedigree linemen Munchak has molded into starters: seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum (who earned a $24 million contract with the Jets), undrafted Chris Hubbard ($36.5 million contract with the Browns), undrafted B.J. Finney (started nine games at three positions the past three seasons) and now undrafted Matt Feiler (making his fourth start over the past nine Steelers regular-season games Sunday).
“You listen to ‘Munch’ because you know he’s been in our shoes,” Feiler said, “so he definitely knows what he’s talking about.”
Munchak was a nine-time Pro Bowl tackle who 10 times was name first- or second-team All Pro by the AP. He was on the NFL’s 1980s all-decade team and in 2001 was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Center Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro perhaps also have Hall of Fame ceilings, and Munchak has refined the skills of those two and fellow established veterans Gilbert, guard Ramon Foster and tackle Alejandro Villanueva. But what has made Munchak equally as valuable to the Steelers is his work to develop the likes of Finney, Feiler and rookie third-round pick Chuks Okorafor.
“Coming into this league, your mind is kind of everywhere,” Okorafor said, “so it’s so nice knowing you have such a respected coach that can get you from (sticking his hand out, palm down, at thigh level) ‘Level A’ to (moving the hand up to eye level) to (Pro-Bowl) level.
“Having him, it gives you hope that if you listen to him, you’ll get there.”
Said young offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins: “The stuff he teaches you, I sometimes sit and think, ‘If I would have had Munch all this time, I’d be 10 times better than I already am by now.’”
Joe Haden helps Steelers put ‘lid’ on Ravens WR John Brown
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
This time, the Pittsburgh Steelers had the antidote for Baltimore Ravens speedy wide receiver John Brown.
It came in the form of veteran shutdown cornerback Joe Haden, who excelled in the Steelers’ 23-16 victory Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
Haden was tasked with shadowing Brown, who had a 71-yard reception and a 33-yard touchdown catch in the Ravens’ 26-14 victory against the Steelers on Sept. 30.
Brown caught three passes for 17 yards and was a non-factor in the rematch. That was a departure from the first meeting when his three receptions totaled 116 yards.
“Nothing really changed,” linebacker Vince Williams said about the Steelers defensive strategy. “We had to keep a lid on John Brown.”
The lid rarely was opened.
“They basically took me out of the game plan,” Brown said. “That’s just something we have to figure out and get right.”
The secondary was led by Haden, who also had four tackles. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had 209 yards passing after lighting up the Steelers for 363 yards in the first game.
“We made sure they didn’t catch balls on the outside,” Haden said. “We tried to keep Brown in the box and not let him get over the top like he did last time. We paid a lot of attention to him. Those were some of the things to make sure they didn’t get big plays.”
Flacco took the field Sunday without the benefit of his starting tackles, James Hurst and Ronnie Stanley. Rookie Orlando Brown Jr. and second-year player Jermaine Eluemunor.
“When we did get into the seven-step, or even the five-step stuff, Joe was under duress,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
Roethlisberger thanks Ravens for moment of silence for Tree of Life victims
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Ben Roethlisberger stepped on the field at M&T Bank Stadium by remembering the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting eight day earlier.
The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback stepped off it and thanked the Baltimore Ravens for the show of support the organization provided Sunday.
The Ravens held a moment of silence for the 11 victims of the tragedy. The team also posted a message of solidarity on its social media counts that read: “Baltimore stands with Pittsburgh.”
“I thought it was a very class act by Baltimore with a moment of silence,” Roethlisberger said after the Steelers’ 23-16 victory. “Just because we’re a week or whatever removed doesn’t mean the pain is any less for a lot of people. I said to the guys just like last week, ‘We gave Pittsburghers, people that are in pain, three hours not necessarily to forget but to take your mind off of it. And I’m glad we could do that with a win here in Baltimore.”