NFL Nation: Jack Bicknell Jr.

PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin has filled the one opening he has on his staff right now, and it looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers coach hit a home run.

Mike Munchak has agreed to become the Steelers' next offensive line coach, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, and the fourth one during Tomlin's seven-year tenure.

Munchak interviewed in Pittsburgh last Friday and his history makes him the ideal choice to mold a young offensive line that returns every starter next season and should also get Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey back from a major knee injury.

Munchak, one of the greatest guards in NFL history, is in the Pro Football of Fame, and he also distinguished himself coaching the offensive lines in Houston and Tennessee.

Munchak rose to head coach in Tennessee but he was fired earlier this month after the Titans went 7-9 and he refused to make sweeping changes to his staff.

Munchak has extensive experience teaching the outside zone blocking scheme that would appear to be an ideal fit for rookie running back Le'Veon Bell. The Steelers installed the scheme last year but ditched it following the torn knee that Pouncey sustained eight snaps into the Steelers' season opener.

Munchak has Pennsylvania roots as he is a Scranton native who starred at Penn State in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He becomes the third assistant on Tomlin's staff who was previously a head coach joining defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and offensive coordinator Todd Haley in that distinction.

Munchak takes over for Jack Bicknell Jr., whom Tomlin fired after just one season.
PITTSBURGH -- A surprising name has surfaced in connection with the opening the Baltimore Ravens have at offensive coordinator.

Coach John Harbaugh announced on Tuesday that Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson is among four finalists for the job that became open when the Detroit Lions hired Jim Caldwell as their head coach.

Wilson is eminently qualified for the job, and he probably would have been promoted to offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh had he not been badly burned in a house fire in January, 2012.

The surprise is that the Steelers have granted Wilson permission to interview with their chief rival. Wilson is to meet with Harbaugh this week, presumably in Mobile, Ala., where NFL coaches are scouting Senior Bowl practices and interviewing draft prospects.

The Steelers could have blocked Wilson from interviewing with the Ravens since it is not for a head-coaching job. The guess here is that Mike Tomlin does not want to deny Wilson, who has been with him since 2007 in Pittsburgh, an opportunity given how loyal Wilson has been and what he persevered through to return to coaching.

Wilson would be attractive to the Ravens because of Baltimore's need to fix a running game that faltered badly in 2013. The Ravens averaged just 83.0 rushing yards per game, ranking 30th in the NFL in that cateogry. They averaged just 3.1 yards per cary, last in the NFL.

Wilson is the second Steelers assistant coach who has been linked to a coordinator job elsewhere.

Linebackers coach Keith Butler was considered one of the favorites to become new coach Ken Whisenhunt’s defensive coordinator in Tennessee. But Butler, who is considered the heir apparent to Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh, never interviewed for the job.

In addition to Wilson, the other finalists for the job in Baltimore are former Rams head coach and Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler.

There has been only one change to Tomlin's coaching staff so far, as he fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., this month.

Former Titans coach Mike Munchak interviewed for the job of offensive line coach last week in Pittsburgh.

Steelers interview Mike Munchak

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
PITTSBURGH -- So much for waiting to interview Mike Munchak next week at the Senior Bowl.

The Pittsburgh Steelers met with the former Tennessee Titans head coach Friday about the opening they have for an offensive line coach.

Munchak, as I noted in an earlier post, would have to be among the Steelers’ top candidates to take over for Jack Bicknell Jr., if not their No. 1 target.

The only drawback I can see with Munchak is that he will remain on the radar in regard to NFL coaching jobs for the foreseeable future. His next stop may simply be a layover until he gets another head-coaching job.

But if the Steelers can get a Hall of Fame offensive lineman who has also been a successful position coach, then it is a no-brainer to hire Munchak.

There probably isn't anything imminent happening on this front.

Tomlin and his staff will be in Mobile, Ala., next week for the Senior Bowl, and the seventh-year coach could conduct more interviews for the one opening he has on his staff.

Munchak, for his part, is probably in no hurry either.

He is among those who have interviewed for the Browns' head-coaching job, and he at least probably wants to see what happens in Cleveland before committing to another job.

Steelers to meet with Mike Munchak?

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to meet with former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak about their opening for an offensive line coach next week at the Senior Bowl, per CBS NFL Insider Jason LaCanfora.

Coach Mike Tomlin fired Jack Bicknell Jr. after just one season this month, and that might be the only job on his staff that Tomlin has to fill this offseason.

It makes sense that Tomlin is waiting for the Senior Bowl, which will be played in Mobile, Ala., before hiring an offensive line coach. The week that allows coaches and scouts to evaluate top college seniors has also turned into an NFL job fair.

Munchak has been busy since getting fired after coaching the Titans for the previous three seasons. He interviewed with the Detroit Lions and Penn State for their respective head-coaching jobs. Munchak has also met with the Cleveland Browns, who are the last NFL team with a vacancy at head coach and are waiting to talk with assistants whose teams are still in the playoffs.

Talking to Munchak and hiring him are obviously two different things. But there isn’t a more attractive candidate out there for the Steelers.

Munchak’s credentials as a player -- he is one of the greatest guards in NFL history and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- would give him instant credibility with the linemen he would coach in Pittsburgh.

He also rose to head coach in Tennessee based on his work in the organization as an offensive line coach.

If the Steelers want to implement -- and stick with -- an outside zone-blocking scheme that would seem to fit Le'Veon Bell's running style, they couldn't find a better point man in doing that than Munchak.

Steelers fire OL coach

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. after just one season.

The move comes as a bit of a surprising considering the progress the offensive line made this season despite constant shuffling because of injuries.

The offensive line allowed just seven sacks in the Steelers’ final seven games. It also helped rookie running back Le'Veon Bell rush for 214 yards in the final two games of the season.

The Steelers lost two starting centers during the course of the season, including Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey (torn ACL) in the opener. They had to deal with in-game injuries, it seemed, on a weekly basis, and the loss of Pouncey scuttled the Steelers’ plans to employ a zone-blocking scheme in 2013.

“I have decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of our offensive line,” Tomlin said in a Steelers release. “I want to thank Jack for his contributions during the 2013 season, and I wish him well in the future.”

The Steelers will have their fourth offensive line coach under Tomlin as Bicknell had followed Larry Zierlein and Sean Kugler.

Tomlin fired Ziegler after the 2009 season, and Kugler left after 2012 to become the head coach of UTEP, his alma mater.

The Steelers will begin a search for Bicknell’s successor, and Tomlin could wait to talk to prospective candidates at the Senior Bowl, which will be held Jan. 20-25 and is a veritable job fair for those looking for work.

Bicknell had previously served as the offensive line coach for the Chiefs (2012), Giants (2009-11) and at Boston College (2007-08), his alma mater.
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers identified left tackle as a problem that needs to be fixed. The biggest help they can provide whoever lines up there when they visit the New York Jets on Oct. 13 is to stop playing from behind.

They had to do that in each of their past two losses, and Ben Roethlisberger threw an average of 46 passes against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.

What was more of a problem than Roethlisberger’s sheer number of attempts were the circumstances under which he dropped back to pass.

[+] EnlargeKelvin Beachum
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsSteelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. said he's pleased with his group's progress, including the work of Kelvin Beachum.
That was particularly true in the 34-27 loss to the Vikings.

“What makes it harder is once you fall behind like that and you take the run game and the run play-action out of it, which we had a little bit success doing, now it’s just, 'Hey, we’re going to tee off and go get him,'” Steelers offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. said. “In the NFL that’s a bad place to be because then you start getting all of the twists and all of the different blitz schemes. So you never want to be in that situation, and we got in that situation.”

That situation clearly overwhelmed left tackle Mike Adams, and the Steelers couldn’t help him by using a tight end or running back to help block Vikings defensive end Jared Allen since they needed to give Roethlisberger as many options as possible when he threw the ball.

Adams appears to be headed to the bench, though Levi Brown is anything but a guarantee to shore up left tackle even if he picks up the Steelers’ playbook quickly enough to start against the Jets.

The Arizona Cardinals were all too eager to jettison Brown, which still leaves the Steelers with a super-sized question at left tackle. And Kelvin Beachum is still an option there if left guard Ramon Foster (pectoral strain) is healthy enough to play against the Jets.

Despite the Steelers’ problems at left tackle, Bicknell remains encouraged about the overall progress the offensive line has made.

And he gave the group a vote of confidence following the Steelers’ final practice this week.

“I’ve had teams where you look at our offensive line and say, ‘We’re in big trouble.’” Bicknell said. “We don’t have that feeling. We’ve got this feeling like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to fix some things.’

“It’s not all bad, I promise you that. They’ve done some real good things, but we also understand we’ve got to rise up and take care of the things that have been hurting us so we can start winning.”


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