Richard Mann isn't someone who likes the spotlight. He prefers to quietly go about his job, and let his players shine. And under him, they have done just that.
After 33 years as an assistant coach in the NFL, including five with the Steelers, Mann retired from coaching. And he did so in a quiet, unassuming manner, just the way he wanted it.
"I was thinking about it last year. The way things ended, and talking to the players, I wanted to give it one more run," said Mann on Wednesday. "I was trying to get a Super Bowl ring in Pittsburgh. This is where it all started for me and I had an opportunity to let it finish here.
"I really appreciate the Steelers organization, the entire Rooney family, and Coach (Mike) Tomlin for getting me out of retirement the first time to finish up here. I felt like maybe if I stuck it out one more year I would have an opportunity to get a Super Bowl ring here. That didn't happen, we came up a little bit short, but what a great run for me.
"I was able to finish my career right where I started. I started in Aliquippa and I was able to finish here with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I said I probably wouldn't coach past 70. I am 70 and I still have a lot left in my tank."
Mann has spent the last five years as the Steelers' receivers coach, and under his guidance Antonio Brown has had five 1,200-yard plus seasons. This year rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster emerged, finishing his first season with 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, despite missing two games.
That is exactly why Tomlin, who has a long relationship with Mann having worked on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff together, urged him to come out of retirement five years ago to join the Steelers coaching staff.
"I had the pleasure of working with him 15 years ago at a different capacity," said Tomlin. "My appreciation for him really kind of started there. I was a younger assistant position coach, defensive backs. He was a more senior veteran wide receiver coach. Obviously, by the nature of the positions, we worked cooperatively together in training camp. I learned a lot from watching him coach his guys on the grass and off the grass. I was appreciative of him allowing me to do that. Often times in training camp like settings, we would watch the same video of our guys together. I could hear him make coaching points to his guys about what was happening on the video. He could hear me make coaching points with my guys about what was happening on the same video. It was just a unique learning environment
"He's always been a teacher and not resistant to sharing that expertise with others and that is why I've always gravitated towards him. Very accomplished coach. Maybe a lot of opportunities were not afforded to him because of the generation in which he rose through the ranks. I'm cognizant of that. I am appreciative of that. I realize some of the opportunities I have been afforded in my career is because of efforts and accomplishments of men like Richard Mann. I am appreciative on a lot of levels. Probably can't eloquently describe that level of appreciation, but he is a special man and a special coach. One that has impacted me in a lot of ways."
Mann had a way with the players, whether it was veterans or young guys, he was able to relate and teach them not just football lessons, but life lessons.
"They realize that what he tells them is true," said Tomlin. "It's stuff that is going to get them better. He's consistent in his delivery and messaging. He has a mode of operation as a teacher. He has a lesson plan or approach to teaching. I think it creates an atmosphere where growth happens and I think the guys felt that. I think that is what the guys are expressing. Those things are timeless. They have nothing to do with age or things of that nature. I just think his approach to the business and the way in which he instructs and teaches is going to produce those relationships and those feelings."
Mann coached the wide receivers at Tampa Bay from 2002-09, and was the assistant head coach in 2009. During his time there he helped produce at least one 1,000-yard receiver in seven seasons, the longest streak in Tampa's history.
"He's a 'been there, done that' guy," said Tomlin. "That perspective is really good. He's coached a bunch of top-notch players, obviously at stops along the way. I think that frame of reference is good. I think his experience shows up in countless ways in terms of the things that he provided us formally and informally. Expertise, schematics, technical teaching, or just dealing with the natural adversity that the game presents. He's been a tremendous asset to us in all of those areas."
Mann's coaching resume also includes serving as the receivers coach for the Washington Redskins (2001), the Kansas City Chiefs (1999-2000) and the Baltimore Ravens (1997-98). He also was with the New York Jets (1994-96) as a receivers and tight ends coach, and held both positions with the Cleveland Browns in 1985, and then remained as the team's receivers coach until 1993, where he coached Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome. His first NFL coaching stint was with the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts as the wide receivers coach from 1982-84.
Mann, who is from Aliquippa, Pa., where he played on the school's 1964 WPIAL Championship team and later coached there, might not be coaching any longer, but his lessons will carry on.
"He will be missed every day, but he will be felt every day too in the careers and the lives of the guys that he touched," said Tomlin. "I think that is part of it as well. I worked with him over the years. I know a lot of my teachings or approaches to instructions, aspects of his teachings will be revealed in it. I'm sure all of the other coaches will say the same thing. I'm sure the players that he had an opportunity to work with will say the same thing. Obviously we will miss him day to day, miss the man. But his impact on us will be continually felt and handed down from those that he actually didn't even touch directly and I think that is a beautiful thing about it as well."
Mann said he thought about staying after the way things played out this season, but the timing was right to retire. He won't stop coaching completely, though, as he plans on coaching his seven-year old grandson, Richard Mann III, who plays youth football in Leesburg, Virginia, where his father, Richard II is the Assistant Director of Pro Personnel for the Redskins
"I thought about hanging on for another year. We have a good receivers' room. We have a good football team here," said Mann. "I have been around a few situations where it was hard to win a game, much less 13. I talked to my family and the ultimate thing is I decided at some point you have to let it go, so that is what I decided to do.
"I will probably stay away from it, not watch it as much. I am sure I will miss it a little bit. I still have it in me. Sometimes you have to step away and that is what I choose to do. I think being around the players I will miss. I coached hard and have been around it a long time. I will wrap myself around my family and my grandkids and we will find some other things to do."