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Tomlin adjusts Steelers roster for special teams

By Mike Prisuta
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin offered an excuse Tuesday for his still-disappointing coverage units.

Then, the Steelers made a roster move.

Cornerback Ricardo Colclough, the apparent culprit on a 42-yard kickoff return hemorrhaged to the Bengals' Glenn Holt in Sunday's 24-13 win at Cincinnati, was released.

Cornerback Anthony Madison, a contributor on special teams for the Steelers in 2006, was signed to take Colclough's roster spot.

"I addressed this briefly with the team (Monday), and it's important that those men understand it," Tomlin said. "We are new. I am new. This is the first year for us as a staff and a football team, but we have more continuity on offense and defense than we have in the kicking game.

"Schematically and so forth; relationships, players, coaches, etc. We are going to experience some growing pains in the kicking game."

The Steelers rank fourth in the NFL in total offense (first rushing, 21st passing) and first in the NFL in total defense (fourth rushing and fourth passing).

Those two units are being directed by carry-over coaches from Bill Cowher's staff (defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who was the wide receivers coach last season).

Special teams coach Bob Ligashesky and assistant special teams coach Amos Jones are new to the organization this season, as is Tomlin.

The Steelers are 19th in kickoff coverage, having allowed opponents to start drives at the 26.9 yard line, on average, and 15th in net punting average (37.7).

Five of the 10 players who covered kickoffs (not counting kicker Jeff Reed) and seven of the 10 who covered punts (excluding rookie punter Daniel Sepulveda) were with the Steelers in 2006.

Colclough covered kickoffs and was a gunner on the punt team Sunday, his third game with the Steelers this season after being deactivated for the first four.

Holt also had kickoff returns of 34 and 33 yards Sunday, the fourth- and fifth-longest against the Steelers this season.

The urgency with which the Steelers are approaching special teams this week may have something to do with that, and with the impending arrival of Baltimore return man Yamon Figurs on Monday night.

Figurs, who had the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine in February (4.3; Ohio State wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. didn't run for scouts), ranks third in the NFL in kickoff returns (29.9, with a long of 61) and seventh in punt returns (12.0, including a 75-yard touchdown).

Ravens safety Ed Reed also has a punt return for a touchdown this season (63 yards).

"We have to be ready to go in that area," Tomlin said.

Colclough, a former second-round pick in 2004 (Tusculum), earned the wrath of Steelers fans for a fumbled punt return that contributed to a 28-20 loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 24, 2006. He had zero special-teams tackles in 2006 and one this season.

Madison, a former rookie-free agent from Alabama, was released in training camp in 2006, signed to the practice squad, and then activated Oct. 7, 2006, when Colclough was placed on the injured-reserve list with a neck injury.

Madison contributed 10 special-teams tackles in 13 games in 2006, which tied for sixth among Steelers.

"Part of the things that make you great are time-tested relationships, shared experiences, continuity," Tomlin said. "We are in the process of building that brick by brick in the (special) teams game.

"We have to continue to do what we've been doing and guys have to respect the newness of us collectively as a special-teams unit. In order for us to be great, we have to be good repeatedly. That is the approach we take every day when we come in here, working that phase of our game."



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