The Pittsburgh Steelers fired special teams coordinator Al Everest two games into the preseason this earlier this year and replaced him with assistant special teams coach Amos Jones, who head coach Mike Tomlin hired to his staff back when took the job in 2007. The firing was considered very surprising at the time because teams rarely, if ever, make coaching changes in training camp.
The Steelers special teams unit ended the 2012 season on Sunday ranked 22nd in the league in punt return average allowed (10.3) and 18th in the league in kickoff return average (24.0). As far as their own returns went they ranked 29th in the league in punt return average (7.3) and 9th in the league in kick return average (25.4). Last year under Everest the team ranked higher in all four of those stats.
To make matters worse, the Steelers did not return a single punt or a kickoff for a touchdown this season and gave up a crucial 63 yard return for a touchdown in the Week 11 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. They also had one punt blocked against the Tennessee Titans that resulted in a short touchdown run two plays and two fake punts for first downs in the Week 14 loss to the San Diego Chargers and Sunday in the season finale win over the Cleveland Browns.
The Steelers offense was only a recipient a handful of times of good starting field position courtesy of returns and Antonio Brown made several poor decisions fielding punts over the course of the season. A few of the decent returns that they did have over the course of the season always seemed to be wiped out by penalties on players whose sole playing time came on special teams.
The standard certainly wasn\’t the standard in 2012 for the Jones-led unit and it was anything but special. That blame falls square at the feet of not only Jones, but Tomlin as well.
While the Steelers are unlikely to make many changes to their coaching staff during the offseason, outside of hiring a new offensive line coach to replace the departing Sean Kugler, who is leaving to take over as head coach of his alma mater UTEP, Jones needs to be replaced. It is that simple.
On Monday there will be several special teams coaches out of work on the yearly “Black Monday” and the pickings should be good. One those expected top be on the street is Bobby April of the Philadelphia Eagles.
April, who coached the Steelers special teams in 1994 and 1995, was a candidate to replace Bob Ligashesky when he was fired back in 2010. Tomlin interviewed April, who ended up taking the job with the Eagles. That led to Tomlin hiring Everest and the rest his history. History just like Jones should be by the end of this coming week.