Steelers Special Teams Shows Opening Day Promise

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have an issue here and there to clean up on special teams, but the unit had a solid debut performance overall.

Rookie punter Brad Wing punted six times during the game, averaging a distance of 43.7 on his kicks. More noteworthy was the 40.3-yard net average, which was hurt by a late-game touchback, one of his small blemishes on the day.

Only one of Wing’s punts was returnable, and it was returned for zero yards by the time the returner got out of his backpedal.

It was certainly an improvement from his up and down performance during the preseason, during which he won the punter job uncontested, with free agent signing Adam Podlesh at home with his wife dealing with a difficult pregnancy.

On the other side of the ball, Antonio Brown continued to show why head coach Mike Tomlin can’t take him out of the punt return role, even with his role on offense becoming as big as it has. The Steelers simply don’t have anybody else that can do what he does.

On two punt returns alone, he broke four tackles, including three on one in which he made five total people miss and fly kicked the punter.

Of course, had he not done that, he might have seen that the left sidelines was there for the taking, and he likely could have put that one in the end zone for a touchdown.

Dri Archer’s day on kick returns was mixed. He had one impressive return that didn’t count, and another poor return that did. On the one that didn’t count, he made three Browns miss just by running laterally, then knifed through two more defenders upfield before lowering  a shoulder into his eventual tackler at the 40.

The only problem is that Terence Garvin was flagged for holding on the return, which brings up the biggest problem the special teams had on the day. The Steelers had three for four penalties on special teams alone.

But they did have success covering kickoffs, twice tackling Travis Benjamin inside the 20-yard line, first on a good play from William Gay at the 19, then Gay once again at the nine-yard line. Of course, Benjamin later caught the game-tying touchdown.

The highlight of the day for special teams, however, was of course Shaun Suisham and his right foot, which sent the Steelers home winners on opening day.

After missing three kicks during the preseason, Suisham was three-for-three on the day, including the game-winner from 41-yards out. He also closed the first half with a 34-yarder and the opening drive from 36 yards. As it turned out, the Steelers needed all three of them after blowing a 24-point halftime lead.

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