Starting Nod Not Changing Steelers’ Special Teams Roles

It was assumed we wouldn’t be seeing much of Vince Williams on special teams this year. You could assume the same about T.J. Watt, especially if you knew that he was going to play practically every snap on defense. Or even Anthony Chickillo once he got the nod for an injured Bud Dupree. In reality, that wasn’t the case. While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have tweaked their units to reflect those roles, it’s clear they still want their special teams stalwarts to keep seeing time there.

The snap count numbers alone tell that story. Chickillo played a whopping 20, tied for most on the team, despite seeing 94% of the snaps on defense. Watt wound up playing 11, including starting on the punt coverage and kick return teams. And Vince Williams remained as a starter on kick coverage, though the team removed him from the other units.

For the most part, this unit held up. They blocked a punt, pinned the Browns deep in their own territory on the only return of the day, a gain of 14, and while Jabrill Peppers did rip off one nice punt return (in part due to a booming punt by Jordan Berry), the Steelers mostly held him in check.

Williams has been a tone setter on special teams. While it’s debatable if you want to ask the guy to sprint 50 yards and then play defense, his competency and ability to bring energy to the unit, and after a good play, the defense, has value. At least some of his workload has been reduced on special teams. If the Steelers want to play the amount of dime they did Week One going forward, 10 snaps, Williams won’t be an every down player. Makes the decision more rationale.

Watt is a little more debatable given the higher volume of snaps he’s going to get each week. But he’s a rookie and highly conditioned so if there’s a guy to do it with, it’d be him. Chickillo’s role will be reduced once Dupree comes back, evening out his workload.

You could argue special teams was the most effective unit on the field against the Browns. Given those results, and no major mistakes from the defense, I wouldn’t expect much to change.

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