TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Steelers' return game stinks

Steelers/NFL Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008
 

The Steelers tried out four long-snappers Tuesday before settling on somebody named Jared Retkofsky.

If only Retkofsky could return kicks.

Somebody needs to.

A "splash" return, as coach Mike Tomlin might put it, could help the Steelers win a game in what is shaping up to be a tight divisional race.

If the Steelers lose Monday at Washington, and Cleveland beats Baltimore, the AFC North would look like this at the midway point:

Steelers -- 5-3

Ravens -- 4-4

Browns -- 4-4

Bengals -- Don't ask.

If the Steelers and Ravens win, it's still a one-game difference atop the division.

Meanwhile, the Steelers' return game doesn't just stink, it infuriates. Tell me you don't turn red and want to hit something every time 247-pound Najeh Davenport settles under a kickoff.

It would be one thing if Davenport was an emergency replacement as the primary kickoff returner.

This has been going for parts of three years.

True, Davenport once averaged 30 yards per return in Green Bay and has his strengths. As Tomlin said Tuesday, "What he does is catch the ball and get vertical."

Not for long, though. Davenport's 21.7-yard average is an improvement on his past two years but ranks 28th in a 32-team league among players who have returned at least 10 kickoffs.

It's easy to find the Steelers' return-game statistics, by the way. Just scroll to the bottom of the page.

Their kickoff-return average is 20.0, which ranks 30th in the NFL. They are one of seven teams without a return of 40 or more yards.

Their punt-return average is 4.8, tied for last in the NFL. They are one of four teams without a return of 20 or more yards.

At this point, Ricardo Colclough is beginning to look like Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.

The Steelers' issues are underscored this week, because Washington's Antwaan Randle El provides a reminder of how good things used to be in the return game.

Randle El hasn't been dynamic for the Redskins, but in his final year here, in 2005, he averaged 10.2 yards per punt return with two touchdowns and seven returns of 20-plus yards.

In 39 games since, the Steelers have one punt-return touchdown and just eight of 20-plus yards.

The wasted third-round pick of Willie Reid two years ago didn't help. Reid was supposed to be a game-breaker. He turned out to be a heart-breaker.

Something went seriously wrong with Allen Rossum, too. He was mostly awful for the Steelers last season but is averaging 26 yards on kick returns and 20.8 yards on punt returns for San Francisco.

What's going on here?

"More than anything, we haven't cracked a big one," Tomlin said. "Nothing's wrong with what we're doing schematically or how the guys are executing. ... If we continue to get comfortable with the men who are returning and continue to work with our schemes, we'll get what we're looking for.

"They'll deliver a field-position play or a splash play."

That seems more plausible on a punt return, seeing as Santonio Holmes and Mewelde Moore have big-play ability.

It's past time to change something on the kickoffs.

How about activating 5-foot-7 rookie return specialist Jayson Foster, whom the Steelers signed to their practice squad two weeks ago?

How about giving Nate Washington a shot?

Shoot, maybe it's time to put Jared Retkofsky, Jared Zabransky or Jared the Subway Guy back there.

They couldn't do any worse.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Steelers

  1. Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
  2. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
  3. Inside the Steelers: Ventrone suffers right ankle injury
  4. Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
  5. Steelers tackle Beachum braces for competition along offensive line
  6. IOC urges US to come up with another bid city for 2024 Games
  7. Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
  8. Steelers’ Brown arrives in style, vows to be ‘the best in the world’
  9. Butler, Steelers defense take on new challenges
  10. Steelers ‘confident’ bid for 2023 Super Bowl in offing
  11. Steelers notebook: 5 players start training camp on injured list