Don’t mess with Marquand Manuel during pregame warm-ups.

Ben Roethlisberger would put the Steelers squarely in the first category if not for the noise he made recently about potential retirement. The expectation is that Roethlisberger will play in 2017, but if he’s thinking about the end, the Steelers have to be thinking about what comes next. Big Ben turns 35 in March.

Same with 2015 MVP Cam Newton, whose completion percentage dipped to an abysmal, career-low 52.9 in 2016. Was it a Super Bowl hangover? Or was it closer to what we can expect from Newton going forward? He’ll turn 28 in May, so there’s plenty of time left.

Don’t mess with Marquand Manuel during pregame warm-ups. You’re liable to catch some heat.

On any given game day, you’ll see the 37-year-old with his headphones on, drowning out the noise as he bobs his head to the beat. He’ll run a few laps around the stadium with a menacing stare on his face, like an assassin fixated on his next victim.

Folks unfamiliar with the Atlanta Falcons likely would mistake Manuel for a player. His players view him as a guy who will cuss anybody out, make no mistake about it. That’s part of the reason why Manuel commands respect as he makes the leap from secondary coach to defensive coordinator, a move made official Friday.

“M, he’s a perfectionist,” free safety Ricardo Allen said of Manuel. “He knows the ins and outs of every player. He does the studying. He has the passion to lead. He’s a natural leader. And people are willing to follow him.”

Falcons coach Dan Quinn promoted longtime colleague Marquand Manuel, right, to defensive coordinator.

Manuel is a coach willing to put on cleats, line up opposite his defensive backs and get physical with them off the line. His hands-on approach and aggressive style just might be the added push the Falcons need to elevate an improving defense to yet another level.

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