It’s one of the first things in my training camp notes. Doesn’t mean a ton but it’s how the Pittsburgh Steelers begin every training camp practice. A group falling into line to catch kicks and punts.
We learned of three players getting work in that group during today’s OTA session. Wide receivers Demarcus Ayers, Eli Rogers, and Levi Norwood, according to Penn Live’s Jacob Klinger.
— Jacob Klinger (@Jacob_Klinger_) May 25, 2016
As Klinger says, Antonio Brown is still working his way back to Pittsburgh from out west so he wasn’t around to participate. He’ll obviously jump back into the mix when he gets back. Ayers, Rogers, and Norwood all have extensive collegiate return backgrounds. Ayers and Norwood have received work on kicks and punts while Rogers only returned punts at Louisville.
Ayers was draft specifically for his return capabilities and to make the roster, will have to excel here. At the least, that means bumping Brown off punt returns. While that may be the plan, the position requires a lot of trust from Danny Smith and Mike Tomlin, a tall task for a rookie attempting to beat out a veteran who has earned that trust completely.
Last season, Ayers averaged 10.5 yards per punt return. Most of his production did come in one game, a 175 yard performance against Tulane. In his other 13 games, Ayers had just 120 punt return yards, averaging just six yards per return.