Everest calls firing by Steelers a 'shocker'
Former Steelers special teams coordinator Al Everest said his firing “was a shocker” but declined Friday to discuss why he and the team parted ways with only two preseason games remaining.
Everest was abruptly fired by coach Mike Tomlin following practice Thursday, the Steelers' last such on-field work before the preseason game in Buffalo on Saturday. Everest, who had been in his job since January 2010, was replaced by his assistant, Amos Jones.
“It was professional differences, and let's leave it at that,” Everest told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Friday.
But he added, “It was a shocker.”
Everest still was coming to grips with the firing Friday, following an evening spent mostly calling relatives, friends and NFL acquaintances. He plans to stay in coaching but said it was too early to think about where he might coach next.
Everest politely declined to discuss his departure in detail but said it had nothing to do with the decision to take Pro Bowl returner Antonio Brown off the kickoff and punt return teams. Brown, a starting receiver, recently signed a $42.5 million contract extension.
Brown upgraded the return units last season, averaging 10.8 yards on punt returns and 27.3 yards on kickoffs. But the Steelers apparently do not want to risk losing one of Ben Roethlisberger's prime targets to a special teams injury.
Tomlin did not discuss the firing with reporters. The Steelers announced it in a news release late Thursday afternoon after the players had left.
Jones, a former Alabama player under coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, was already on Tomlin's staff when former special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky was fired and replaced by Everest, a former special teams coordinator with the 49ers and Saints. Jones handled much of the on-field special teams coaching during training camp.
Everest had been fired by the 49ers only days before the Steelers hired him after the 2009 season. He was about to begin his 16th NFL season.
The Steelers finished ninth in the NFL last season in kickoff returns (25.1-yard average) and 13th in punt returns (10.5-yard average). They did not allow a touchdown on a kickoff or punt return during the regular season.
The Steelers' special teams were rated ninth overall among the 32 NFL teams in footballoutsiders.com's detailed analysis of special teams play.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.