The Pittsburgh Steelers made a decision Tuesday which made waves throughout their fan base. No, it wasn’t the hiring/firing of a head coach or coordinator, but the addition of an offensive line coach. When the news was made the team hired Pat Meyer to be the main man with the offensive line, many were skeptical.
For the record, there is a vast majority of fans who were like me, and didn’t know who Meyer was, or his history as a coach. Nonetheless, if you do some digging, you would find out what he has, or hasn’t, accomplished in his lengthy career in the game as a coach.
This article is not to get into the debate which is still raging among Steelers fans about whether Meyer was, or was not, a good hire. Instead, this is to discuss how we, the fans, view the importance of position coaches.
For me, I view position coaches as important, but not integral to the success or failure of the team. When you consider their role, they hold specific team meetings, work on technique and game planning with their position group, but they aren’t the ones calling the plays on their respective side of the field.
What this does is eventually bleeds into the age-old debate of coaches vs. players, who is more important?
There are the fans who will scream from the mountain tops it is the coaches’ responsibility to get their players in position to succeed, and get them prepared to execute.
This side of the debate can build a very strong case for this being truth.
Then there are the fans who are on the opposite mountain screaming about the players executing the plays called. You could have the best coach in the world, and if you don’t have the players to execute said plays it will all be for nothing.
This side too can build a strong case for their narrative being fact, not fiction.
What no one wants to admit is how there is a middle ground where truth actually resides. You need the coaching staff to put the players in a position to succeed, and you need the players who are capable of executing those plays/plans.
Is there an exception to the rule? It depends who you talk to. Some will say great players can make even the worst coaches look better than they actually are. Likewise, some of the best coaches can make something out of what most would deem as nothing.
Typically, if one side of the coach/player balance is overloaded, it is going to end in a result which is disconnected.
Take the 2021 Steelers as an example. Even when the Steelers had their best players on the field, there were moments when the play calling simply wasn’t going to be good enough to equate in success for the offense. On defense, Keith Butler could have called the perfect run-stuffing defense, but without the likes of Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt on the field, the results never matched the plan.
With all of that out of the way, I come back to the importance of a position coach. Pat Meyer will be working directly with the Steelers’ offensive linemen this year, whoever they may be. Will Meyer be tasked with being the run-game coordinator like Mike Munchak was during his time with Pittsburgh? If he is, it hasn’t been made public knowledge. Therefore, I think it is important to keep things like the new offensive line coach, or the new secondary assistant coach, in perspective. It isn’t that these positions don’t carry value and/or importance, they do, but ultimately they will be doing what the coordinator and head coach want them to do.
If Meyer is a primarily outside zone concept coach, and that is what Matt Canada wants to do, then we have ourselves a good match. The next step is for Meyer to find out who he will be working with this season, and if they have the capabilities of becoming a solid offensive line.
So what’s the big deal with who the Steelers hired to coach the offensive line?
Fans wanted a name, and this is what I call the “Munchak Effect”. Prior to the Steelers hiring of Mike Munchak, not many average fans would have known who the team’s offensive line coach was at the time (it was Jack Bicknell Jr.). But when you hire Munchak, a former head coach of the Tennessee Titans and a Hall of Fame player for the Houston Oilers, everyone knew the former Penn State lineman.
Now, since Munchak left Pittsburgh for Denver, no name would, or likely ever will, carry the same amount of clout as Munchak. That’s just reality. In the meantime, try not to be swayed too much by the name, or the previous coaching experience. People will point to Pro Football Focus (PFF) grades of Meyer’s previous stints as a coach, but keep things in perspective as far as his overall impact on the team. If the Steelers bring in some free agents and draft a couple offensive lineman you could be seeing Meyer proving some of the doubters wrong.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of the new league year and the 2022 NFL Draft.
The topic of offensive line coach was discussed further, and attempted to be quantified, by our own Dave Schofield on the “Steelers Stat Geek” podcast. Check it out in the player below: