I’m sure that headline won’t surprise you. Bet it’ll make you feel a little better though.
Mike Tomlin sat down for my favorite interview of the week, his conversation with Bob Labriola. They talked about an array of things, all of which you can read here over at Steelers.com, including how to deal with the Kansas City Chiefs’ tough special teams unit.
His answer was simple: keep the ball away from Tyreek Hill.
Tomlin said kicking the ball out of bounds against Hill was a “viable” option because of what Hill has been able to do this year.
“There’s no question. The conversation starts there. How much video does a guy have to have to get you thinking with that mentality? There’s no secret. This guy is a Pro Bowl player, a first-team All-Pro returner. He’s got every award a kick returner can have in his rookie season. That’s enough video for me.”
Hill led the NFL in his rookie season in punt return average, punt return touchdowns, and tied for the league lead in kick return touchdowns. And he had several other punt return touchdowns called back, including one against the Steelers in their first matchup.
Maybe a little jokingly, piggybacking off Labriola’s suggestion to have 35 yard punts out of bounds, Tomlin said he’s looking for a little bit more out of Jordan Berry.
“I’ve been talking to Jordan Berry all week about 45 and out of bounds. (Laughs)”
It will be up to Berry to handle the key role of directional punting and keeping the ball away from the league’s most dangerous return man. He’s had a strong season but given the matchup and weather conditions, it won’t be easy. Even in a perfect scenario, directional punting is a difficult task, something Tomlin pointed out during the interview.
“Hey, there are certain elements of that equation that you can’t weigh until you get inside the stadium. The weather, the windage, etc., is a big, big element of that. I don’t mind that the fans don’t realize how difficult that is. They don’t have to. They don’t have to punt.”
The kick return unit won’t have the luxury of being able to kick the ball out of bounds, though. Hill is going to get his returns, unless Chris Boswell is able to clear the end zone entirely, and it will be up to the coverage unit, which has struggled, to get the job done.