It’s your favorite time of the week—actually the timing is screwed up because of Thursday Night Football. Thanks to this midweek blasphemy, we are now talking about special teams on the same day that a game is being played. Here is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ special teams report from the Colts game.
As I wrote about previously, I really don’t know why Joe Haden was back playing jammer before his injury instead of Coty Sensabaugh. He never did it before this year, that I’m aware of, and he’s not particularly good at it. He allowed a fair catch and was called for a hold on his two reps.
With Darrius Heyward-Bey temporarily out, J.J. Wilcox was the right gunner on the first punt opposite Mike Hilton. The Colts vice jammed Hilton and stoned him, which is why they are able to get off a good return.
Wilcox and Haden were trying to vice jam when the latter drew a hold. On that punt, Roosevelt Nix beat his one-on-one matchup with the right end, but couldn’t get into the backfield fast enough for a block.
Poor Jordan Berry had to punt three times in a row, and got off a good one to start out, 51 yards fair caught at the 10, but Kameron Canaday held on the play. Hilton was down there first, but DHB got there in time too.
After that first punt, they replaced Hilton with Wilcox and this time Sean Davis was called for a hold, though it was more of a hip toss. On the third punt, Wilcox certainly looked winded getting down the field, though the returner only got four yards. Arthur Moats got the eventual tackle on the chasedown. This is why James Harrison usually doesn’t dress.
Oh, and that’s yet another note. T.J. Watt replaced Moats as the primary left end on this unit, but after two reps, they subbed in Moats, who was playing that role at the start of the season up to the Chiefs game. And then he made the play.
Stephon Tuitt blasted the long snapper on the Colts first extra point kick, but came nowhere close to a block.
Indianapolis hung the next kickoff short, letting JuJu Smith-Schuster field it at the five. He saw daylight up the middle and just took what was there, 25 yards to the 30. I like the decision. Even bounced off a tackle for a couple extra yards at the end.
For the record, Watt was back in his usual place on the punt team on the next rep, as was Hilton, who actually caught the punt, not on a bounce, at the seven-yard line. You don’t see that too often. To be fair, it was a 31-yarder.
I love the fact that Tuitt and Cameron Heyward give max effort for every play they’re on the field, but I still crap my pants when I see them bend over forward after leaping to try to block a field goal. To be fair, Heyward has blocked one before.
Kicking from deep in their own end, Jordan Berry got off a 56-yarder, but vice jammers slowed the gunners. The returner made the awful decision of trying to run laterally and ended up losing four yards when he could have gotten an easy 10 or more. Davis made a great tackle.
On the Colts’ first kickoff of the second half, they lined up coverage heavy on one side and short-kicked it to Terrell Watson to force a return against imbalanced coverage, able to limit him to a return to the 22.
I’m not going to talk about the extra points and stuff here because I did so earlier in a film study.
Berry’s longest punt went for 56 yards with a 12-yard return, but a hold drawn by DHB against vice jammers negated the return yardage. Wilcox might have been held on the other side too. Actually, maybe that’s the one they flagged…but they were both held.
The Colts made virtually no effort to impede those same gunners on the next punt, a 44-yarder fair caught at the 11.
The Martavis Bryant two-point conversion play featured something the Steelers did a lot during this game, and hadn’t done a lot previously, which was to put three wide receivers on the same side of the field. Makes it a lot harder to match in close space.
Antonio Brown did do better as a return this game, running across the formation to fair catch one rather than letting it bounce. He also did a nice job of turning upfield to at least get seven yards on another. He did let a later punt bounce backward several yards to be downed.
On this play, the Steelers stacked jammers rather than setting them both up against the gunner on one side, and it worked very well. Heyward-Bey was the primary jammer up at the line, which was I believe a first this season. I think I like this stacked look. It gives you more adaptability.