Part of our weekly game coverage here is shining a spotlight on some moments on special teams. This week seemingly features even more than usual. We’ve already talked about Matthew Thomas and Roosevelt Nix.
Now I want to take a look at Jordan Dangerfield and how the Pittsburgh Steelers have flexed him out to become a four-phase special teams player, seemingly taking on the role that Nat Berhe was presumed to occupy.
Let’s start by checking out the punt return unit. Dangerfield typically worked on the right edge on these plays, and while he didn’t come close to blocking any kicks, he did prove to be a capable blocker, which is the more important element on about 99 percent of returns, given the scarcity of blocks.
We have an example of the second-year safety working on the kick coverage unit into the third quarter. Serving as the third man down the line from the kicker, on this occasion his ability to occupy two blockers helped to get Tyler Matakevich a one-on-one opportunity. Winning his individual matchup, the linebacker recorded the tackle at the 11-yard line.
Now working on the punt coverage unit in the fourth quarter, he served in the personal protector role that Robert Golden previously enjoyed, and which it was assumed Berhe would take on this year. Dangerfield did not have to draw a blocking assignment on this particular punt, which freed him up to get down the field, though Cameron Sutton had already induced a fair catch.
Finally, we can take a look at Dangerfield on the kick return unit late in the game. Serving as the furthest man down the front line to the right, on this 27-yard punt, the safety covered a lot of ground in getting to the hash mark and then picking up a defender, ending up making a block that actually contributed positively to Ryan Switzer’s return to the Steelers’ 31-yard line.
Dangerfield ended up playing 26 snaps on special teams between both coverage and return units, while Berhe only saw time on the kickoff return and coverage units for a total of nine plays. Is this temporary, or has Danny Smith decided that the former is more valuable to him?