We suspect many coaches in the NFL have players who will speak highly of them. It's an underappreciated art; coaching players to reach higher levels than they would otherwise achieve. In the case of new Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, those players seem to line up to give testimonials to what he's capable of doing.
Ray Fittipaldo of the Post-Gazette had a great feature the other day, hunting down former Steelers center Justin Hartwig to give his statement on his experience with the man who coached him in his early years with the Tennessee Titans.
"He was a great mentor and a great friend," Hartwig said. "I think the Steelers hit a grand slam home run in getting him. If I was drafted into another system, I don't know if I would have lasted in the NFL. He had patience with me, and he instilled confidence in me. I owe my NFL success to him."
Hartwig was a low-end tackle prospect from a school not known for producing high-level talent. Munchak helped draft him, developed him into a center and Hartwig played seven years in the NFL after being a sixth round draft pick.
The thought of what Munchak could do with the group of blue-chippers the Steelers currently have, as well as those lesser heralded prospects dotted throughout Pittsburgh's offensive line depth chart is tantalizing.
With four top 60 draft picks - Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert - and multiple low picks who have seen extensive playing time - Ramon Foster and Kelvin Beachum - along with young projects like Nik Embernate, the future is bright for the unit that's plagued the Steelers' success over the last three seasons.
As Hartwig points out, though, patience needs to reign supreme. The thought last year was it might take some time for first year coach Jack Bicknell to get his young line fully immersed in his scheme. It turns out the team laid at least some of the blame of their lack of development on Bicknell.
There are no questions of success with Munchak. He's a proven winner, and he could be the key piece to the offensive line finally reaching its drafted potential.
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