Shortly before the season started Mundy was an injured-waived but returned via the practice squad in November. Mundy had a strong training camp in 2009, played well in preseason and looked good on special teams during the regular season.
Ryan Mundy appeared to have enough upside that with Ryan Clark testing the free agent waters in 2010, there was some talk that the Steelers might just slot Mundy in as a replacement.
Clark of course resigned with the Steelers, but Mundy’s role with the defense grew and he did well in his first start vs. the New York Jets (yes, he did bite on one play allowing the Jets to advance but the Jets managed to thoroughly outfox the Steelers that day.)
Going into the 2011 season no one thought that Ryan Mundy would ever earn a place along side Donnie Shell, Carnell Lake, or Troy Polamalu, but he did look like he was growing into a Myron Bell or Lee Flowers type of player.
That assessment held throughout the regular season, as Mundy continued to excel on special teams and get more snaps in the secondary, including his first interception in a defensive struggle vs. Kansas City.
Steelers 2012 Season: Ryan Mundy’s Development Stalls
Ryan Mundy started in Ryan Clark’s place during the Steelers 2011 Wild Card game vs. Denver.
On paper, Mundy had a great game, leading the team with 7 tackles and forcing two fumbles. But he was also part of a defense that gave up 20 points to a Tim Tebow in single quarter and ultimately could not stop him in over time.
Pinning all of that on Mundy would be grossly unfair. Innumerable players left Invesco Field on the injured cart, and the ones able to play (such as Mike Wallace) left a lot of plays on the gridiron. But…
…The Steelers returned to Denver for opening day 2012 and failed to hold on to a fourth quarter lead. Again not Ryan Mundy’s fault. But…
….Two weeks later, the Steelers traveled to Oakland to take on the Raiders. Mundy gained national attention with his helmet-to-helmet hit to Darrius Heyward Bey. The contest was notable because it was yet another game where the Steelers saw a fourth quarter lead slip away. Clearly, Mundy was far from the only one at fault, but….
….Mike Tomlin had apparently seen enough. When Troy Polamalu was out for an extended period during the mid season, it was Will Allen and not Ryan Mundy who started in his place.
And while Ryan Mundy shouldn’t be unjustly singled out as a scapegoat for the early inconsistencies of the Steelers defense, the fact is the unit improved with him on the bench.
Does Ryan Mundy Have a Future in Pittsburgh?
No one is going to flash dollars at Ryan Mundy. As the hit on Darrius Heyward Bey shows, Ryan Mundy in many respects has developed into a Myron Bell-Lee Flowers type of safety.
And that could be part of Mundy’s problem.
The NFL’s increased focus on player safety, protecting the defenseless receiver and reducing helmet-to-helmet hits is making an endangered species safeties who roam the middle in search of the coveted “kill hit.”
The Steelers invested several years in developing Ryan Mundy and it would be a shame to see their investment go to waste, but there’s also the real possibility Mundy’s development has reached a ceiling.
The Steelers can likely bring Mundy back if they want him back, but if they get the chance they might just be wiser cut their losses and inject youth into the position.