It’s the worst sight for coaches and fans alike. Holding your breath in the hopes a kicker makes a tackle. It happened twice last Sunday. Randy Bullock shoved Sammie Coates out of bounds after a 44 yard return and Chris Boswell made arguably the play of the day, a nearly literal shoestring tackle on Alex Erickson to save a touchdown.
Though kickers are rarely involved in the play, in Pittsburgh, they’re coached up like anyone else on that unit.
“Our kickers are athletes,” Danny Smith told Bob Labriola in today’s Coordinator’s Corner. “There are some kickers who run off the field in those situations. You’ll never see that in a guy I coach. Because they can save the day. And obviously, he did in that situation.”
And it’s something they rep throughout the season for that one or two times per season when the kicker has to transform into a linebacker and make a play.
“I don’t think you can expect them to do those things unless you work at it,” Smith said, referring to getting kickers involved in the coverage unit.
He said the Steelers use sleds and show kickers how to wrap up as part of their practice. They also work on diving tackles and shoving players out of bounds. Kickers, they’re people too.
Smith also said having the kicker as an active participant helps set a tone, especially when he makes a big play, just as Boswell did.
“That’s why you see him run his butt off. It sets a tone. And we expect it to get done.”
Of course, kickers making tackles are never a good thing and point to an obvious breakdown in coverage. Smith said the Steelers were “out-leveraged” and it’s an issue that must and will be corrected. The Steelers’ coverage units had been pretty good for most of the season but missing Darrius Heyward-Bey and Shamarko Thomas for weeks is starting to take its toll.
DHB participated in his first practice Wednesday afternoon and has a chance to play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.