In the Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 preseason opener last Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the team let their kickers and punters alternate opportunities. During his Thursday morning press conference to preview the team’s upcoming second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday night at Heinz Field, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he once again plans to alternate the kicking and punting duties in that contest.
“I have every intention of doing what we did last week, but we’ll continue to watch it,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got a couple more days of work. We’re going to challenge them some here in these settings and the outcome of those challenges may dictate otherwise.”
In summation, Tomlin will likely go into Saturday night with a plan to rotate his kickers and punters but he won’t be married to his intentions if he thinks he can put one of them in pressure-type situation that is provided by the natural flow of the game.
In the preseason opener, kickers Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright made all of their field goal and extra point attempts. Boswell had the longest make in that game from 47 yards out. As for the team’s two punters, incumbent Jordan Berry punted twice Friday night for a 44.5-yard average with one landing inside the Buccaneers’ 20-yard-line. Ian Berryman only punted once against the Buccaneers and while that effort was a booming one of 66 yards, it went into the Buccaneers’ end zone for a touchback.
Ahead of the team’s second preseason game both Boswell and Berry don’t appear to be at risk of losing their respective jobs to their current competitors. That said, there are still three preseason games remaining and you can bet at some point during those contests that Tomlin will attempt to make both incumbents perform in higher-pressure settings if possible. Additionally, while the two backup specialists might not be threats to the two incumbents, other kickers and punters around the league could be.
While Tomlin wasn’t asked Thursday about how he intends to handle kickoff and punt returner duties Saturday, it’s a good bet that we’ll see a rotation once again when it comes to that phase of the game as well. Last week wide receivers Johnny Holton and Diontae Spencer both got opportunities to return kickoffs while the latter had four punt returns in the contest. will rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson get a chance to return kickoffs Saturday night after sitting out the preseason opener with a groin injury? We’ll have to wait and see.