Tunch Ilkin has known Mike Munchak for almost 30 years, and he has studied him as both an NFL player and as an offensive line coach in the league. Ilkin played tackle for the Steelers when Munchak was a guard for the Houston Oilers, and while they never lined up against each other on the field, their teams did face each other at least twice a season.
Ilkin now is the color analyst on the Steelers Radio Network, and Munchak is the team’s new offensive line coach. Ilkin took some time recently to talk to Bob Labriola and offer his opinion on the Steelers hiring Munchak.
I like the man. Mike Munchak is an old friend, a guy I first met at the Pro Bowl after the 1988 season. I was instantly impressed with his work ethic, a perennial All-Pro who just kept working on his craft. We traded helmets at that Pro Bowl, and I always kept his on a shelf in my home.
My first chance to see him actually coach came when we did some instructional videos for the National Football League Youth Fund. Munch was one of our technicians, and he did a clinic where we videotaped him working with the kids. He’s a tremendous teacher, a fundamental teacher. He goes by the numbers. He has a great eye to see when guys are doing it right, and when they’re not doing it right he has a great eye to tell why they’re not doing it right.
And he was a physical, nasty, tough guy, and you love those kinds of guys on the offensive line. He would get after it, wouldn’t back down, just one of those tough guys you would love to have on your side.
When Mike played, the Houston Oilers were a run-and-shoot offense, and they ran a lot of draws, a lot of delays. The Oilers never really ran much outside-zone. When Mike became a coach, and I watched his offensive lines with the Oilers, and then the franchise moved to Tennessee and became the Titans, those offensive lines could run the outside-zone and they also could come off the line and straight-block. They could do both, and if you can do both you really have something.
If you look back at the Titans’ offensive lines over the past how many years, they’re a nasty bunch. They’ll get after it, and that’s one of the things you’re going to see from this Steelers offensive line. The guys are going to be even a little bit nastier than they’ve been in the past, because that’s the way Mike is.
He’ll make Marcus more consistent, because if I was Marcus I’d want to improve upon my consistency. A guy like Munchak is a coach who will teach guys to pay attention to detail, to hone their craft to the next level. He’ll develop that part in these players.
When you play for a guy like Mike Munchak, you’re going to want to be a professional, because that’s the way he went about his business as a player and it’s the way he goes about his business as a coach. That’s the area where Mike will help Marcus really grow: being more consistent and taking his craft to the next level.
Munchak and DeCastro are both right guards, and I think he’ll teach DeCastro the nuances of the game that a young player doesn’t have just yet. Not only was Munchak a physical, tough player, but he also was a very smart player. Munchak’s wealth of experience will have a tremendous effect on David.
Munchak will teach
In many ways he’ll teach Beachum the same kinds of things he’ll teach DeCastro – nuances of the game. One of the other things Mike can do for Beachum is that he’s coached a couple of Pro Bowl tackles, and so what Munch will be able to do is contrast Beachum’s play with some of the Pro Bowl tackles he has coached. Munchak will be able to point out, this is what Brad Hopkins did well, or this is what David Stewart did well. Mike will be able to bring his experience of coaching other guys who have played that position, and then use it to bring Kelvin along.
Gee, I don’t know. Pouncey is such a tremendous athlete, a much better athlete than Mike ever was. (Laughs). All joking aside, Pouncey is all of the things you want as long as he stays healthy.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HIRE
I believe it’s hugely significant. What Mike Munchak brings, there is no way to put a value on that. He was a Hall of Fame player who was very gifted, and he was also an over-achiever. That experience can translate well to younger players.
If you were a great player in this league but you weren’t an over-achiever or a great technician, sometimes it’s hard to reach players. But because of the kind of player Mike was, he’ll be able to teach these guys what they need to know, and the guys will respond to him because when he speaks he has tremendous credibility.
All they need to do is go back and watch some old video of Mike Munchak as a player. That will show them real fast who he is.