This is not a Danny Smith apology post. I swear. These are just the facts, simply the numbers, and they point to one thing. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ special teams haven’t been good enough. You…probably already knew that.
Though that aspect of football runs much deeper than just kickoffs and punts, the Steelers have struggled mightily in those core areas. Stats tell the story.
After eight weeks, here is where Pittsburgh ranks in kick coverage/returns and punt coverage/returns.
Kick Coverage: 16th (22.7 yards)
Kick Returns: 30th (18.3 yards)
Punt Coverage: 28th (10.1 yards)
Punt Returns: 28th (5.1 yards)
That’s bottom five in three of those four categories. Only kick coverage rises above the NFL’s basement and even then, it’s merely average.
These aren’t brand new problems either. The kick return game has been among the league’s worst for three seasons now and is continuing to, somehow, regress.
Of course, there are elements of special teams that have been positive. They have three field goal blocks the last three years, one per season, including a critical extra point in last week’s win over Indy. Few scheme up punt rushes better than Smith, though the team has only been close once or twice through the first half of the year. Penalties are down this year, too while Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry are enjoying excellent years.
And part of the issue, as it will always be, comes down to player execution and there have been repeated, obvious mistakes on that side of things. But eventually, you look at the group in totality, recognize the buck stops with the coach, and admit it’s not good enough and in fact, it’s getting worse. That’s a troubling sign for a team already in the basement in so many of these areas to begin with. Onus is on Smith to fix those issues and fix them right away.
Want to make a playoff push? Gotta tighten the screws on special teams.