I really don’t know how common an occurrence it is for a teams’ special teams coordinator to be overly happy with the roster, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Danny Smith certainly seems to have enjoy what he has seen of their 90-man group so far through the spring. Not that he is getting ahead of himself. He sees a lot of potential, but potential can be a four-letter word.
“There’s a key term in that question. That’s ‘potential’”, he told Jacob Klinger. “And a guy told me a long time ago, potential means you ain’t worth a [crap] today. OK? Don’t let them put that potential tag on you. But in all seriousness, we got a lot of prospects”.
A prospect, of course, is a player with potential.
The Steelers are looking to replace some big names on special teams this year, with wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and linebacker L.J. Fort no longer on the team. Other players such as Terrell Edmunds should be expected to see a reduced role from a year ago, which means they will need more bodies to take those snaps.
Smith didn’t want to name any specific players because he knew that if he forgot to mention somebody, he’s going to hear from that player the next day asking him why he didn’t get acknowledged and what he’s doing wrong. But he did say that the felt the Steelers’ draft class “was outstanding”.
That starts at the top with 10th-overall pick Devin Bush, who will be playing on special teams, in case you had other ideas. Just because he’s a high draft pick doesn’t mean he’s going to get any type of excuse. Edmunds did it last year. T.J. Watt did it. We can go on down the line. Cameron Heyward still plays on the field goal units.
Outside of Bush, you have two other linebackers, which is always a key position in terms of the population of special teams units. Sixth-rounders Sutton Smith and Ulysees Gilbert III both demonstrate skill sets in their game that would indicate that they could be quality contributors in the third phase. Fourth-round running back Benny Snell, Jr. and third-round cornerback Justin Layne are other likely contributors, and Diontae Johnson could be in the mix as a returner.
Then there are the undrafted free agents, like the two safeties, P.J. Locke and Dravon Askew-Henry. Tuzar Skipper, a college teammate of Olasunkanmi Adeniyi’s, is another name. speaking of Adeniyi, he should begin contributing on special teams this season as well.
Whoever ends up playing for Smith’s units, they have to block better in the return games than they have been, especially in kick returns. It’s one thing to have a number of talented players on your unit and another entirely to get them all working together successfully toward a common end.