Tomlin: Sexton’s Punt Return ‘Ignited’ Steelers’ Offense Against Cowboys

One way to earn a job in preseason as a fringe roster guy is to make big play after big play. So far, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mathew Sexton is doing just that.

Sexton had arguably the play of the night Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, ripping off a 34-yard punt return early in the third quarter, setting up the Steelers’ offense deep in Dallas territory in a 3-0 hole.

The play by Sexton caught the attention of head coach Mike Tomlin and special teams coordinator Danny Smith, with Tomlin stating the play sparked the Steelers’ offense in a big way.

“I thought [Matthew] Sexton was a big punt returner,” Tomlin said. “I thought it ignited us. I don’t know that we had done much offensively until then, and it was like that was a springboard for us moving forward.”

Sexton returned just two punts in his four-year career at Eastern Michigan, so it’s not like he’s all too familiar with catching punts. That said, with his game-breaking speed Sexton is going to have to stand out on special teams — specifically as a punter returner — rather than receiver to make the roster, and the return against the Cowboys helped in a big way.

What stands out about the return is Sexton’s decisiveness and his ability to plant his foot, get north and turn on the jets. That’s what you want to see from a returner: catch ball, run straight, run fast.

With James Washington reportedly requesting a trade from the Steelers and Ray-Ray McCloud seeing more of an elevated role in Matt Canada’s offensive scheme, the door is open for Sexton to try and grab the return job McCloud held down in 2020 with much success.

“Cheddar Bob” certainly has the traits to thrive there. Here’s hoping the UDFA can make more plays in the preseason and stick around in Pittsburgh this upcoming season.


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