Ever since he came into the league in 2010, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has returned punts for team. In fact, he’s not bad it, either, as he currently holds a 9.8 yard per return average heading into 2015. Even so, head coach Mike Tomlin said after Monday’s training camp practice that as usual, he’s not opposed to turning that job over to another player if he finds one that’s capable of doing it as well as the team’s best wide receiver.
“We go through this process every year,” Tomlin said Monday. “I’m always hunting for capable guys, but I also know that Antonio [Brown] is very capable. So when it comes time to make a decision, we will, but in the meanwhile, we’re going to work with all guys that we view as capable candidates.”
While many worry about Brown possibly getting inured should he continue to be the team’s punt returner moving forward, Tomlin isn’t one of them.
“He doesn’t get hit very often to be honest with, so I don’t view it as highly risky, personally,” said Tomlin.
As it stands right now, running back Dri Archer, wide receiver Eli Rogers and newly acquired cornerback Brandon Boykin are the only legitimate candidates who could supplant Brown as the team’s punt returner this season. However, it should be noted that Rogers is an undrafted rookie, so he’d have to be fantastic during the preseason in order to make the final 53 man roster out of training camp.
According to Alex Kozora, Boykin was in the opening return line with Archer and Rogers during Monday’s practice.
The team more than likely would like Archer to win the job this year, but it’s yet to be seen if he can. During his rookie 2014 season, Archer returned just one punt for two yards.
As for Boykin, who was acquired via a trade late Saturday, after establishing himself as a punt and kick returner in college at Georgia, he’s returned just one punt during his first three years in the league with the Philadelphia Eagles. That return was good for 7 yards.