Special teams report. You know the drill. You love the drill. Let’s go.
First thing to note: on the field goal/extra point unit, with Stephon Tuitt out, the Pittsburgh Steelers now have Vance McDonald there again instead of Xavier Grimble. Grimble got beat in week three as the left wing for a blocked field goal. McDonald stayed there until he left the game with a knee injury.
Kameron Canady couldn’t keep his feet on the first extra point attempt.
On Chris Boswell’s second kickoff, Darrius Heyward-Bey taking on the lead blocker forced Alex Erickson to try to get to the outside to his left, but it was well-defended, Anthony Chickillo making the tackle at the 17.
Kevin Huber had a strong game punting for the Bengals. His first was downed at the 10 with great hangtime for a 36-yard punt. And I thought the gunners—Coty Sensabaugh and Artie Burns—did a solid job here.
They don’t always do this, but Heyward-Bey and J.J. Wilcox both rushed the punt here. Pittsburgh being aggressive rather than looking for the return on a short field.
Jordan Berry’s first punt, much less impressive. 39 yards to the Bengals’ 47. Set up a 53-yard touchdown drive. The Bengals viced both gunners—DHB and Wilcox—and I didn’t think the returner needed a fair catch here.
Since Arthur Moats has been down, T.J. Watt has been in the left tackle role on that punting unit. Sean Davis also remains in Grimble’s former right wing role.
Erickson returned Boswell’s second kickoff from five deep, but only reached the 25 anyway. DHB was held here at the 18, but it wasn’t called.
The Bengals kicked short on a kickoff midway through the second to Terrell Watson at the five, allowing just a 16-yard return. Robert Golden and L.T. Walton did not sustain their blocks.
Sensabaugh was beat as the jammer on a 52-yard punt for a fair catch, but I’ll have more on him tomorrow in greater detail.
I didn’t notice this live, but the Bengals came pretty close to blocking the late-first-half field goal around Jesse James at right wing. This was right before he and special teams coordinator Danny Smith had words heading into the locker room. I don’t think he did enough to push KeiVarae Russell wide off the edge.
The Steelers didn’t do anything particularly well schematically on the kickoff opening the second half. DHB and Tyler Matakevich just read the flow of the return better than their blockers, making the tackle at the 17.
The Steelers stayed aggressive on punts in the second half, with DHB and Wilcox rushing. And again, a 51-yarder fair caught. Can’t ask for more than that if you’re the Bengals’ special teams coordinator.
McDonald was still in for the first field goal of the second half even after he checked out with a knee injury. Grimble replaced him for the last two.
Still aggressive, the Steelers sent eight on the punt return unit. Antonio Brown signaled for a fair catch at the 20 but let the ball go, dying at the four, for a 59-yard net punt. That’s three 50-plus-yard net punts with no return.
On a late punt, Mike Hilton made his first appearance as a gunner in a while, and they vice jammed him. or tried to. He did well to get down the field, but he wasn’t in a position to make the play, a 51-yard punt with a 19-yard return for a 32-yard net. Erickson snuck by Matakevich for about half the yardage.
For once, the Steeler sent only seven rushing on a punt and got a seven-yard return, albeit on a 53-yard punt. Burns did a solid job jamming. Decent at it for having never done it before the season started.
The fake punt was a no-brainer. The Bengals took their jammer off of Heyward-Bey, giving him a free pass. Wilcox on the other side was left unchecked as well. They had 10 men closer to the snapper than the gunners.