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Tomlin Can’t Say Enough Good Things About Kicker Matthew Wright (Including Saying Goodbye)

One of the keys to victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday in their 19-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons was special teams. Matthew Wright (who was released earlier today) made four field goals in the win, while Harvin pinned the Falcons deep in their own territory with 53 seconds left, setting up safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s game-winning interception. The Steelers also didn’t Cordarelle Patterson, the NFL all-time leader in kick return touchdowns, get a chance to return anything against Pittsburgh. During The Mike Tomlin Show on Saturday, head coach Mike Tomlin praised the Steelers’ work in special teams.

“The field position component when it’s ebb and flow, when it’s tight, is a significant component of ball. We had to minimize Patterson, a known guy like that. Part of good coaching and good playing is minimizing known issues and that means make problems disappear before they happen,” Tomlin said. “We got nice contributions from Pressley Harvin in the timely manner and can’t say enough about Matt Wright and the consistency in which he’s playing. I gave him a game ball after the game and he’s really deserving of that,” Tomlin said via the team’s YouTube channel.

Wright ended his second regular season stint with Pittsburgh by making 10 straight field goals, and he deftly executed kickoffs to prevent them from heading Patterson’s way. Patterson has nine career kick return touchdowns, including one already this season, and the Steelers’ kick coverage has struggled in recent weeks. As a result, they schemed away from Patterson and kicked the way of fullback Keith Smith and backup running back Avery Williams. By avoiding Patterson, the Steelers limited one of their major weaknesses in kick coverage by not allowing one of the best kick returners of all time have a crack against that unit. While he’s no longer with the team, it’s nice that Tomlin gave him the game ball in what was probably his best performance with the team in what ended up being his final game.

Harvin has been inconsistent this season, but his punt to pin Atlanta on the two-yard line was one of his best players in a Steelers uniform. The Falcons were only down a three, and a bad punt could’ve given them enough field position to get in position for a game-tying field goal or game-winning touchdown. Instead, he pinned them inside their own 5-yard line, and the Steelers’ defense was able to do the rest, as defensive lineman Cameron Heyward put pressure on Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota and forced him to get the ball out quickly, where Fitzpatrick jumped the pass.

On a day where the offense couldn’t find the end zone more than once, special teams played a huge role and their performance is a big reason why the Steelers are 5-7 heading into Sunday’s AFC North battle with the Baltimore Ravens.

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