Friday, November 03, 2006

Breaking News: Steelers Special Teams Not So Good

Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review takes a look at something that has been discussed at length (ad naseum) here at Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic: the poor performance of the Steelers special teams. Whether looking at return or coverage teams, whether looking at kicking or punting, the Steelers (who have never been especially strong in this phase of the game, which is ironic given Bill Cowher's legacy as an NFL player is as a special teams player) are hurting themselves with terrible play on the special teams.

"Bill Cowher isn't the only one frustrated by the Steelers' spotty special teams play.

'Since I've been here, we've never been covering like we are now,' said Clint Kriewaldt, a special teams co-captain. 'It just seems like, every game, we're giving up (a long kickoff return).'

Perception, unfortunately for Kriewaldt and the Steelers, almost matches reality. The Steelers have given up kickoff returns of 50 yards or more in three of their past four games.

If turnovers are the main culprit in the Steelers' 2-5 start, the special teams have to at least qualify as an accomplice. Two lost fumbles on punt returns have led to touchdowns, including a game-changing one in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers also allowed Atlanta to recover a surprise onside kick two weeks ago. That resulted in a touchdown that loomed large, considering the Steelers lost, 41-38, in overtime.

But the kick-coverage breakdowns may be most alarming because of their frequency.

'There is no question that one of the biggest disappointments has been the kicking game,' Cowher said. 'We're not making any excuses. We're just not getting it done.'

Opponents' starting field position following a kickoff is their own 30-yard line, making the Steelers 30th out of 32 teams in that category. The Steelers also are last in net punting average.

It could be argued that turnover, along with turnovers, have sabotaged the Steelers this season.

The offenses and defenses from last season's Super Bowl-winning team remain largely intact. That isn't the case with the special teams, though.

Antwaan Randle El, an explosive punt returner, signed with the Washington Redskins during the offseason.

The Steelers, meanwhile, cut Quincy Morgan during training camp. Morgan, who averaged 25.3 yards per kickoff return last season, will face the Steelers in the same capacity Sunday when the Denver Broncos visit Heinz Field
."

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