The Pittsburgh Steelers knew that to beat the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday night they would likely have to limit the production of wide receiver Tyreek Hill both on offense and special teams. In short, they more than accomplished that goal.
Hill, who is without a doubt one of the fastest players in the NFL, only registered 45 yards from scrimmage on offense on 7 total touches Sunday night and returned four kickoffs for 72 yards. That 18-yard average was well below his 27.4 regular season average.
The Steelers first kickoff in Sunday’s game was a bouncer by kicker Chris Boswell and Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris was forced to field it instead of Hill. Harris, however, returned it 25 yards to the Chiefs 45-yard-line and the Kansas City offense scored their first touchdown of the game 6 plays later.
Boswell’s second kickoff in the game was fielded by Hill on the Chiefs goal-line and the rookie returned it just 12 yards before being smacked by Steelers linebacker Vince Williams. Boswell’s third kickoff resulted in a touchback and it was probably a result of him going with the wind in the second quarter.
Late in the first half Boswell kicked off again and this time the Chiefs wide receiver fielded the football 5-yards deep in the end zone and brought it out for 21 yards before being tackled by Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Jordon Dangerfield at the Kansas City 16-yard-line.
Hill would return one other kickoff in the second half and that one resulted in just a 20-yard gain before he was tackled once again by Williams at the Chiefs 21-yard-line.
After the game, Boswell talked about the success the Steelers kick coverage unit had against Hill.
“The first one, they were all good calls by Danny Smith and it came down to kicking and covering,” Boswell said. “We know Tyreek Hill is the best returner in the NFL and it all came down to we had to make plays and we had to tackle and basically do our job. “And I can’t thank the kickoff guys enough for running as hard as they did and being able to tackle as well as they did tonight.”
As far as Hill’s use on offense, the Chiefs could never get him free for a big play as his longest gain was 9-yards. That gain, however, came on a 3rd and 16 pass play with (1:35) left in the third quarter and the Chiefs punted on 4th down.
“When Tyreek was trying to go sideline to sideline, we were just making sure everybody was there where they needed to be and guys making tackles,” Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier said during his post-game press conference.
Shazier, by the way, was credited with the three tackles on the three times that Hill ran the football in the game.