Any regular reader of our humble offerings here at Steelers Depot knows that our own Alex Kozora has a deep, unexplainable love of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ special teams coach, Danny Smith. So when he read what kicker Chris Boswell said of his position coach, I’m sure you can imagine how he felt about that.
That’s right. Like he just got Chidi Iwuoma’s autograph.
But I’m sure you can tell where this is going already. We all know the background. After making the Pro Bowl in 2017 with a fantastic year, Boswell was so incomprehensibly terrible last season that he very nearly lost his job before the regular season was over. He had to win his job against competitors the team brought in during the week late in the season.
But he’s not going to be putting any of the blame on Smith. “I mean, Danny’s not the one out there kicking and punting and tackling”, he told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when he was asked about the position coach’s accountability in the failures of the special teams units last season.
“He can only do so much, and he does a hell of a job with what he does”, the fourth-year kicker said. “It just comes down to us playing on the field, so Danny taking a lot of heat is, personally, not OK with me. Because I should take all that heat”.
Smith was already an established name as a special teams coordinator long before Mike Tomlin hired him to join his coaching staff in Pittsburgh in 2013. He held the same post in Washington for nearly a decade, and prior to that was with the Buffalo Bills, among other destinations.
Since coming in, the special teams units have certainly gotten more interesting. More plays have been made, but there have been more gaffes as well. How can you botch a safety kick twice in as many seasons, recording a safety and then failing to gain possession on the free kick that follows? That’s pretty stunning. But then there are the blocked punts and field goals, the return touchdowns, and…well, Boswell before 2018.
And before Boswell, Smith had Shaun Suisham, who was only replaced because he suffered a career-ending torn ACL, which led to a parade of failures at kicker before hitting on Boswell himself four games into the 2016 season.
His 2018 season became so bafflingly out of character that, at one point, the Steelers actually brought in Suisham to talk with Boswell, just kicker to kicker, to perhaps try to figure out what had been going wrong.
Boswell said that he still talks to Suisham on occasion, but also doesn’t want to intrude and lean on him in his retirement. But if the former doesn’t get his act together this summer, he might be on his way toward retirement himself.