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Steelers' Everest embraces special challenge

| Friday, May 28, 2010

There is well traveled. Then there is Al Everest.

The Steelers' new special teams coordinator has a resume longer than a Monday, and it lists coaching stints with the Legnano (Italy) Frogs and Birmingham Barracudas, among others.

Everest actually enjoys coaching special teams, even though it can be a thankless job.

"I get to coach all of the players," Everest said. "It's really a beautiful job."

How well he does his new job will go a long way toward determining the length of Everest's latest stop.

Everett replaced Bob Ligashesky in January after breakdowns on the Steelers' kickoff coverage loomed large in the team missing the playoffs. If Everest is not able to coax better plays out of his coverage units, a lack of coaching experience won't be the cause.

Everest has coached in four different countries and on two different continents. He has worked primarily with special teams since 1995, and he oversaw those units with the Saints, Cardinals and 49ers.

Everest's work with the Saints in 2002 earned him the NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year. It also made an impression on a young assistant coach in Tampa Bay named Mike Tomlin.

The Saints beat the Buccaneers, eventual Super Bowl champions that season, twice in 2002. And while Everest has only seen the players he will try to mold into cohesive units in the fall practice in shorts, he is at least saying the right things.

"Bottom line is we'll be better," Everest said. "Effort and desire is a non-negotiable issue."

The bottom line was the issue last year for the Steelers as they yielded four kickoff returns for touchdowns, including ones in back-to-back losses to the Bengals and Chiefs in November.

Frustration got to the point where starters such as outside linebacker James Harrison volunteered to play special teams.

Following the season, Harrison said he would play special teams if the Steelers need. But he also said younger players need to re-establish the tradition of making their mark as special-teamers before graduating to the starting lineup.

"I feel like guys need to step in and do what is needed to win," Harrison said in late January.

When asked if a coach can make that a big difference in special teams, Harrison said: "Damn right he can."

It will be up to Everest to put players in the right position, and he has no illusion about what will happen if he is unable to do that.

Special teams coaches remain largely anonymous unless major mistakes are made on their units. The same fans that called for Ligashesky's firing during the 2009 season may forget that the Steelers were first in the NFL in kickoff coverage in 2008.

"I always say if there's 20 hostages, and you save 18, you're going to read about the two who got killed," Everest said, using an analogy that illustrates why special teams coaches generally don't stay with one team for long. "You're trying to avoid the big mistake, the TD returns. That takes personnel. That takes coaching.

"My coaching philosophy is: I'm here to help (the players) succeed. It's like being a parent. You don't want your children to fail. I think it's important I give them all the same respect, all the same teaching and then let it sort itself out."

Additional Information:

Many happy returns?

How the Steelers fared last season in the return game.

Avg. Yards, NFL rank

Kickoff return , 24.0, 8

Punt return , 8.1, 18

Opponents' kickoff return , 24.3, 27

Opponents' punt return , 9.8, 23

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