Munchak Excited About OL's Future

Le'Veon Bell, David DeCastro (Getty Images)

Veteran OL coach Mike Munchak said he's never had an interior as mobile as this one, and he's looking forward to seeing its progression.

LATROBE -- The Steelers wanted to run the ball on that first series against the New York Giants because "we wanted to go out and show who we want to be," according to guard David DeCastro.

But, there was a little more to it than machismo.

"Well, it's preseason and you really don't want Ben (Roethlisberger) dropping back and throwing," DeCastro said. "You just want to hand the ball off and make a statement."

So the Steelers loaded up three tight ends and handed off to Le'Veon Bell twice for 17 yards, then hit a 46-yard screen pass, and then ran two more times to finish the drive with 4 carries for 24 yards.

That's the most rushing yardage the Steelers have gained in their opening series of a preseason since they rushed 6 times for 27 yards in 2008, and it was their best such average per carry of the century.

Did the Steelers make their intended statment?

"I don't think so," DeCastro said. "It's such a long season. It's one series in a preseason game. Not to say the guys aren't taking it seriously; they are. Everyone's playing fast. But we've got a long way to go. It's a slow burn."

DeCastro's line coach, Mike Munchak, was more enthusiastic.

"I thought the first group -- 14 plays for the group -- showed us exactly what I hoped we would see," Munchak said. "You come out and you get 9, then 8, and then on the big play they were out there in the screen throwing and cutting. I thought all of that was real good to watch. As a coach I wished they would play a little bit longer. I would've liked to have seen us finish those drives with points. But I thought for what they were asked to do, they did a good job."

Munchak has coached offensive lines since 1997, and he said this Steelers line is unique with its mobility along the interior.

"You can see what we did in the game," he said. "We pulled DeCastro three times. We do things like that to get him in space. Same thing with (Maurkice) Pouncey. There'll be times we do other things with him. We'll keep it varied. Both of those guys are out on screens. You saw a 46-yarder on a 4 or 5-yard screen. Pounce threw a kickout block to get the ball going and then Dave's downfield throwing in the open field, making guys get out of the way. You can do a lot of screens with them, you can get them in space more, you can pull them. So there's a lot of things I can do with them schematically."

Munchak, in fact, said he's never had as mobile an inside pair as DeCastro and Pouncey.

"Not to this level. Not two guys as athletic as those two are," he said. "I've had some good ones, but usually my guards have been bigger guys who couldn't run like Dave can, so no this will be fun to do some things with them. And we've got tackles who can run, also. As we go through the season there are a lot of different things you can do. And they're mentally smart enough to handle that. You can do a lot of things, double-call plays and do some things because they're smart.

"It's a good start," Munchak added. "As we play longer and they get into the heat of the battle, you'll see them making adjustments during the game. In the second and the third games you'll see some of that before we get to the opener. Now we just need the young guys to be more consistent as we get going, which we will. We were slow starting with the second group but we got better as we got going."

NOTES -- ILB Ryan Shazier (knee) returned to practice, but only participated in individual drills. He's expected to be scrimmaging by the end of the work week. ... FS Mike Mitchell and TE Matt Spaeth missed practice with "bumps and bruises" and Miek Tomlin expects them back Tuesday. Reserves TE Michael Palmer (ankle) and WR Justin Brown (thumb) also missed practice.

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