The play of the Pittsburgh Steelers special teams units during the 2019 season left a lot to be desired once again and it left many of us wondering if coordinator Danny Smith would lose his job this offseason as a result of it. If you only watched the games from this past season, and thus never looked at any special teams stats, you would probably swear that the Steelers ranked low across the board for the 2019 season in any kind of cumulative special teams rankings. However, when it comes to the annual special teams rankings released on Monday by Rick Gosselin, formerly of The Dallas Morning News, the Steelers not only ranked well cumulatively, they ranked in the top 10.
According to Gosselin’s special teams rankings for the 2019 season, the Steelers finished 9th overall with a score of 324.5. However, as I have written several times over the years, the scoring system that Gosselin uses isn’t very elaborate and it’s essentially crude in nature as it is calculated by using the rankings of all 32 teams in 22 different special teams categories and then assigning points according to the standing in each. In short, the lower the combined final score the better and thus I assume a perfect score would be 22. The lowest score this year was 256 by the New Orleans Saints.
A year ago, the Steelers ranked 25th overall for the 2018 season in Gosselin’s rankings with a score of 426. In case you’re curious, the Steelers ranked 17th overall for the 2017 season with a composite score of 370, 20th overall for the 2016 season with a composite score of 394.5 and 6th overall in 2015 in Gosselin’s rankings with a composite score of 316.5. They ranked 21st overall in 2014 with a composite score of 410. As you can see, the Steelers 2019 score of 324.5 was the best it’s been in years. Yes, I have been following these annual Gosselin rankings for a long, long time.
Smith can probably mostly thank kicker Chris Boswell for the Steelers lower special teams score in Gosselin’s rankings this year as the team finished in the top five in field goals, field goal percentage and extra point percentage. Additionally, the Steelers finished top five in punt return average in 2019 and that’s mainly due to rookie wide receiver Diontae Johnson returning a punt 85 yards for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. That touchdown also helped the Steelers rank in the middle of the pack for points scored by their special teams in 2019 as 14 teams tied in that one of 22 categories for last with zero.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect about Gosselin’s ranking of the Steelers special teams units this year is the fact that it matches exactly where Football Outsiders has them in overall DVOA, ninth overall. By the way, last year the Steelers ranked 27th overall in special teams DVOA while Gosselin had Smith’s units ranked 25th overall.
All special teams rankings and discussions aside, it appears as though the Steelers will retain the services of Smith this offseason.