Two Dogs, One Stick For Special Teams Battles

The Pittsburgh Steelers curiously left off a special teams captain for the first time in several years. That may have been a hint that Robert Golden’s roster spot isn’t entirely safe, though for the moment, he’s rock solid, but probably had more to do with the team opening competition.

Per’s Mike Prisuta, the team is introducing a new carrot to the special teams’ stick. Literally. Each week since Danny Smith has been the special teams coordinator, whatever player has the best performance on that unit is awarded the stick, a “walking stick that’s been painted black and gold,” provided the team walks away with a victory.

And this year, that winner will become the special teams’ captain for the following week. Against Cleveland, there were co-stick recipients: Tyler Matakevich and Anthony Chickillo. It made sense. Matakevich blocked the punt, Chickillo pounced on it for the Steelers’ first points of the year.

Again, the players credited Smith for a good playcall.

“Danny always says you gotta expect to come free,” Matakevich said. “You can’t jog through and then be like, ‘Oh, man, I’m free.’ You gotta come off like you’re going to block it the whole time.”

Matakevich wound up being free, a breakdown in the Browns’ protection, and the Steelers capitalized. So those two will serve as co-captains for Sunday’s home opener against the Minnesota Vikings. And by season’s end, whoever put together the best performance on special teams will be playing for keeps, holding onto the stick for the offseason. In 2016, that deservedly went to Vince Williams, and probably why Smith wants to keep him out there in some capacity.

Smith predictably deflected and gave credit to his guys for executing on Sunday.

“Don’t get confused by good intentions,” Smith said. “It’s about the execution and those guys executed it to its finest.”

Only one coordinator can be interviewed for Coordinator’s Corner this year so I’m going to have to take whatever quotes from Danny Smith I’m going to get. Pump that well dry.

Both Matakevich and Chickillo have proven to be excellent special teamers. So expect them to be out there for several more coin tosses.

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