The Dallas News’ Rick Gosselin has been producing his own special teams rankings for years. He takes 22 different categories, gives points for each, and then compiles them into one final ultimate ranking. The Pittsburgh Steelers finished a very respectable 6th in 2015 with 316 points, where in like golf, the lower the number, the better the score.
Gosselin does not go in-depth for every team, centering the article around his Dallas Cowboys, making it impossible to know where the Steelers rank in every category without manually looking it up, a task we’ll do at some other point. The only one we do know from the article is the Steelers finishing first in field goals made with 35, Gosselin noting only the best and worst in each category in his article.
The Baltimore Ravens finished with this years top unit, 40.5 points ahead of the second place team. The San Diego Chargers finished last. You’ll remember at one point during the year, they were on pace to finish with the fewest punt return yards in league history. They finished the year with 84, the fewest since the 1982 Baltimore Colts had 78.
While we’ll tackle the subject more in depth later in the offseason, my view confirms Gosselin’s statistical ranking. Danny Smith’s units were strong across the board, notably their kick coverage and field goal block teams. Even their kick return unit, the most often criticized, finished 13th in the NFL with over 24 yards per return, despite not returning a kick longer than 38 yards.
You’d like to see a more explosive play in that unit but the fact their average was still that strong without the benfit of a stat-skewing long return is impressive in its own right. None of the other five teams who failed to have a return of at least 40 yards finished above 24th.
Smith has a well coached unit with players who were overall able to step in when injuries struck, and many did, especially at the end of the season, though Sunday’s loss was a less than ideal for his group. Though some would like to see him replaced, he deserves and is likely to stay.
For context, the Steelers finished 21st in Gosselin’s 2014 rankings and 11th in 2013, Smith’s first year with the Steelers.