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Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: Every Steelers KR/PR TD

Introduction

Kickoff and punt returns can be some of the most exciting plays in football. The NFL has de-emphasized kickoffs due to injury concerns. I will not be surprised if the NFL legislates the end of kickoffs within my lifetime but hope that I am wrong. Punting remains a key factor and the tide of a game can turn with a blocked punt or big return.

Here are two charts showing all the kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns scored by the Steelers since they joined the league. I have gleaned these statistics from the touchdown logs for each Steelers season in the Pro Football Reference.

Steelers Kickoff Return TD’s

Year Date Name Pos Opponent Yds Result Final
1937 5-Sep John “Blood” McNally PC Eagles 92 Steelers take 21-14 lead W 27-14
1942 20-Sep Bill Dudley TB Redskins 84 tied game 7-7 L 14-28
1952 12-Oct Lynn Chandnois RH Eagles 93 Put Steelers up 7-6 L 21-26
1952 30-Nov Lynn Chandnois RH Giants 91 Put Steelers up 7-0 W 63-7
1953 3-Oct Lynn Chandnois RH Giants 93 ties game 7-7 W 24-14
1957 13-Oct Billy Wells PR Cardinals 96 extends Steelers lead 12-3 W 29-20
1963 17-Nov Gary Ballman FL Redskins 92 4th quarter game winner 34-28 W 34-28
1966 30-Oct Cannonball Butler FB Cowboys 93 Steelers down 14-24 at half L 21-52
1969 23-Nov Don McCall RB Vikings 101 Brings Steelers within 3: 7-10 L 14-52
1975 26-Oct Mike Collier RB Packers 94 Gives Steelers 10-6 lead W 16-13
1978 15-Oct Larry Anderson KR Browns 95 Puts Steelers in front 13-7 W 34-14
1988 4-Dec Dwight Stone WR Oilers 92 Gives Steelers 10-3 lead W 37-34
1988 9-Oct Rod Woodson DB Cardinals 92 Ties Game 7-7 L 14-31
1989 19-Nov Rod Woodson DB Chargers 84 Puts Steelers ahead 13-10 W 20-17
1996 3-Nov Erric Pegram RB Rams 91 Extends lead to 28-6 W 42-6
1997 5-Oct Will Blackwell WR Ravens 97 Opens 2nd half scoring binge 14-24 W 42-34
2000 24-Dec Will Blackwell WR Chargers 98 Ties Game 7-7 W 34-21
2002 13-Oct Antwaan Randel El PR Bengals 99 Puts Steelers to 31-0 W 34-7
2007 23-Sep Allen Rossum KR 49ers 98 Puts Steelers ahead 7-3 W 37-16
2010 19-Sep Antonio Brown WR Titans 89 Opens game with Steelers up 7-0 W 19-11
2017 31-Dec JuJu Smith-Schuster WR Browns 96 Breaks 21-21 tie up 28-21 W 28-24

Good Record when the Steelers score on kickoffs

The Steelers have used a mix of starting players and return specialists over the years. The last two touchdowns scored off a kickoff were by Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster early in their career. Mike Tomlin removed them from kickoff return duties as their role on the offense increased.

The Steelers record is 16-5 in games they score on the kickoff. It is difficult to determine whether there is a direct correlation or if it is coincidental. The Steelers manage a winning record in games their opponents return kickoffs for touchdowns. Currently, they are 18-15 in such games. In 2009, the Steelers special team gave up four touchdowns on kickoffs in one season. Mike Tomlin let Bob Ligashesky, his first special team coordinator, go after that season.

Steelers Punt Return TD’s

Year Date Name Pos Opponent Yds Result Final
1935 13-Sep Dave Ribble Eagles Unk blocked punt return up 14-7 W 17-7
1942 1-Nov Curt Sandig HB Giants 64 Steelers go ahead 7-3 W 17-9
1951 18-Nov Ray Mathews LH Redskins 68 Steelers lead 7-6 L 7-22
1952 26-Oct Ray Mathews LH Cardinals 70 Extends lead to 13-0 W 34-28
1952 2-Nov Ray Mathews LH Redskins 70 Steelers go up 17-7 W 24-23
1952 30-Nov George Hays DE Giants 3 blocked punt return up 49-7 W 63-7
1961 26-Nov Johnny Sample CB Cardinals 55 Steelers go ahead 20-13 W 30-27
1966 13-Nov Andy Russell LB Cardinals 14 Steelers lead 10-9 on blocked punt W 30-9
1968 10-Nov Roy Jefferson WR Cardinals 80 Steelers up early 14-0 T 28-28
1971 26-Sep Jon Staggers WR Bengals 67 Steelers take 14-10 lead W 21-10
1974 25-Nov Lynn Swann WR Saints 64 Steelers extend lead to 21-0 W 28-7
1984 19-Nov Louis Lipps WR Saints 76 Steelers up early 7-3 L 24-27
1985 27-Oct Louis Lipps WR Bengals 62 Steelers still down 14-26 L 21-26
1985 10-Nov Louis Lipps WR Chiefs 71 Steelers take 20-14 lead W 36-28
1990 16-Sep Rod Woodson CB Oilers 52 Steelers 4th qtr.  score 20-9 W 20-9
1991 15-Sep Ernie Mills WR Patriots 0 Recovered in end zone W 20-6
1992 25-Oct Rod Woodson CB Chiefs 80 Opening score up 7-0 W 27-3
1995 10-Sep Andre Hastings WR Oilers 72 Opening score up 7-0 W 34-17
2000 16-Dec Hank Poteat DB Redskins 53 Breaks tie up 10-3 W 24-3
2003 26-Oct Antwaan Randel El PR Rams 84 Ties game 7-7 L 21-33
2003 9-Nov Antwaan Randel El PR Cardinals 52 extends lead to 28-3 W 28-15
2005 16-Oct Antwaan Randel El PR Jaguars 72 Steelers go ahead 14-7 L 17-23
2005 1-Jan Antwaan Randel El PR Lions 81 Opening score up 7-0 W 35-21
2006 17-Dec Santonio Holmes WR Panthers 65 Steelers go up 34-3 W 37-3
2011 4-Dec Antonio Brown WR Bengals 60 Extends lead to 28-7 W 35-7
2013 15-Dec Antonio Brown WR Bengals 67 Extends lead to 21-0 W 30-20
2014 28-Dec Antonio Brown WR Bengals 71 Opening score up 7-0 W 27-17
2015 6-Dec Antonio Brown WR Colts 71 Final score 45-10 W 45-10
2019 8-Dec Diontae Johnson WR Cardinals 85 Steelers go up 10-0 W 23-17

Steelers Return TD’s

Collecting data on punt returns was difficult since statisticians counted some blocked punts resulting in touchdowns as returns but not others. I have included both clean returns and touchdowns resulting from blocked or botched punts but there may be a couple I missed.

The Steelers have an impressive 23-5-1 record when scoring off an opponent’s punt. Conversely, the Steelers are an abysmal 5-33 when their opponents score off the Steelers punting unit.

Since Mike Tomlin took the coaching reins in 2007, the Steelers have scored on three kickoffs and five punt returns. Opponents have scored seven kickoff and just three punt returns for touchdowns. Historically, the Steelers have scored 50 touchdowns on returns but their opponents 72 times (33 kickoffs and 39 punts).

Conclusion

Although I cannot draw a direct correlation the record speaks for itself. Many folks believe that punt returning duties should not be given to star players because they may get hurt. On the other hand, receivers still run plays over the middle where a linebacker can lay some good hits on them. I prefer that the best available returner be used in punt return situations. Gives best chance to score or at least reverse the field of play with a good return. But then that is why I’m just an average Steelers fan and not an NFL head coach. Here We Go.

SONG SELECTION

I always like to include some music. Here is Only the Strong Survive by the Iceman himself Jerry Butler.

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