I’m writing this in the middle of the Pittsburgh Steelers final cutdowns so clearly, I have no idea how the roster is going to shake out. But I also have no idea who is returning kicks Week One against Cleveland.
Goodbye Fitzgerald Toussaint, Knile Davis, and now, Sammie Coates. Last week, if you asked me who would’ve been the best candidates for those duties, those are the trio of names I would’ve given you. Now, they’ll all be playing elsewhere.
Coates was actually decent as a returner, averaging 25 yards per try and a long of 44, a rare explosive play on that unit.
And what’s left doesn’t make much sense. Mike Tomlin scolded Artie Burns for taking one rep at Latrobe and Trey Williams never got the chance to return kicks. Terrell Watson fielded some kicks in practice but never in-game. He could be the upback on kicks, the bigger, blocking type the Steelers like to employ. Could Marcus Tucker be in play? It seems like a longshot but of those on the roster, he winds up making the most sense.
It could mean the team will go out of house. Maybe that’s another trade, maybe that’s a waiver wire pickup. Kickoffs aren’t nearly as important as they used to be but you still need good decision-makers and someone who can make an impact when called upon.
Whoever it is, the team has gravitated towards bigger players. Special teams coach Danny Smith has cited toughness as one of the key factors in the position, someone willing and able to run full speed into the teeth of the defense. Bill Belichick actually broke down the differences between punts and kicks really well yesterday. Worth your time.
Now, we wait. Maybe by the end of tomorrow, we’ll have our answer. Today though, I’ll scratch my head.