Mike Munchak didn’t need a job, and so he wasn’t going to take any job just to have one. But he still loves football, even after playing it professionally for 12 years, and he still wanted to coach it on the professional level, despite having just been fired by the only NFL team he ever had known.
And besides, the Pittsburgh Steelers had an opening.
This serendipitous bit of good fortune set a process in motion that resulted in Munchak joining Mike Tomlin’s staff as the Steelers’ offensive line coach, which remains the most significant development of the team’s offseason.
“A lot of it is about timing,” said Munchak. “I was available, and the Steelers had an opening at the same time. Pittsburgh itself for me is more Pennsylvania, and being from Pennsylvania I have a lot of family and friends who live in this part of the country. That was a huge plus for me. And then football-wise, there is the tradition. The Steelers’ tradition is something that I’ve competed against for many, many years. As a player (for the Houston Oilers), we were in the same division. I got to see first-hand what it was like, the success Pittsburgh has had over the years, year-in and year-out, always a team everyone wants to beat. I really liked that. I’m big into tradition, I think it’s important, and I was curious to see what it was all about and what it was like. To be part of that now, just getting my feet wet, (I’m) excited about the opportunity.”
Munchak is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his career as a right guard for the Oilers, and within the excellence he showed as a technician throughout his playing career was a nasty streak that is precisely the demeanor the Steelers would love to instill in their current group of young, developing offensive linemen.
Another thing the Steelers are getting with Munchak is an employee who’s being completely truthful when he says he wants to be here, because the Tennessee Titans are paying him for 2014, with reports of what he is owed in the neighborhood of $3 million. Understand that Munchak could have decided to spend the year on his couch and still collected every penny.
“I wouldn’t have just taken a job to take one, as much as I love working and I love the game and I love teaching, I knew it would be going from being a head coach to probably going back to coaching the offensive line,” said Munchak. “There were some other opportunities I looked at, but then it came down to, ‘Do I want to coach the offensive line?” And with that meant moving and doing all those things that come with a coach’s life, so it had to be a good opportunity.
“The chance to come here to coach just made sense for me. I thought it was a good fit when I came in and met Coach (Mike) Tomlin. We had known each other over the years just in competing against each other, but I never had a chance to sit down and spend a lot of time with him talking football. And then with Coach (Todd) Haley, who is the offensive coordinator. They were the main guys I spent time with when I came to town, and it felt really good.”
“It started with a telephone call,” said Munchak. “We talked on the phone for quite some time. I talked to Coach Tomlin on the phone, just he and I, and then the next day I talked to Coach Haley just to get a feel for how the fit would be. I didn’t want to waste their time or mine flying to Pittsburgh and finding out this thing wasn’t going to be a good fit. So, talking on the phone we both felt really good about what we were hearing and how we thought we could help each other, and that’s what made me want to come for a visit. I spent five or six hours here with them watching tape and seeing the facilities. When I walked out the door I felt pretty good about it.”
The good feeling has been mutual ever since, and Munchak seems genuinely excited about the job ahead. There are some NFL assistants who take jobs with an eye on the next job as they work their way up the career ladder, which can be true especially with a former head coach interested in getting back to that status. Munchak doesn’t sound particularly interested in such an approach.
“Even when I became a head coach, I wasn’t looking to be a head coach,” said Munchak.” I wasn’t beating the drums and having my agent out there, because I didn’t have an agent. I’m the same way right now. I took this job because I think it’s a great fit. I think this is a great opportunity in a great city with a great organization, and I have a chance to coach some young offensive linemen I think can be really, really good. When you have a great quarterback anything can happen, and the Steelers’ defense is something that’s always been good. I’m for the moment, man. This is where I want to be. I could see myself being here a long time if it works right for everybody and I just kind of take it one year at a time. I’m looking to be here for the long run.”