The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to spend a good chunk of their offseason with an eye towards special teams. Adding Nat Berhe, a core special teamer who should make a seamless transition from Robert Golden. They brought in several receivers who arguably more offer there than they will on offense and expect Terrell Edmunds to make an impact there too, in addition to his dime role defensively. Of course, Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry, and Kameron Canaday return for their important roles as well.
Big picture, one area this Danny Smith led unit must get better at are penalties. Bleacher Report’s Marcus Mosher tweeted an interesting breakdown of the league leaders in ST penalties and the Steelers didn’t fare very well. They ended 2017 tied for the 6th most, 23 in total.
There are a couple of reasons to be optimistic for this upcoming year, however. The Steeler with the most special teams penalties was J.J. Wilcox, recording three of them, and he’s no longer with the team. And there were a couple of wonky plays that ended in a flag, like Berry’s bat out of the end zone against Chicago in Week 3.
The bottom line remains though that the Steelers left too much hidden yardage out on the field last season. Drives that should’ve pushed the opposing offense further back or given the Steelers’ unit shorter grass to work with.
There were parts of this unit that excelled under Smith. Boswell was outstanding, Berry better than you think, and keeping Canaday over Colin Holba proved to be a wise decision. The coverage units also did a reasonably good job of keeping a lid on things.
But there were glaring issues as well. The kick return game stunk until the very end of the season, a product of the team’s flippant attitude for its return men, and these penalty numbers are far too high.