TribLIVE

| Sports

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

Steelers' special teamers get chance at redemption against Jets

Steelers/NFL Videos

Email Newsletters

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

Mark Kaboly podcasts

  • Loading...

'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.

Friday, Jan. 21, 2011
 

Steelers special teams captain Keyaron Fox has a message for those worried about the Jets' Brad Smith returning an opening kickoff for a touchdown.

"It won't happen again," he said.

Special teams coach Al Everest said this to those who think back a decade ago when New England scored a pair of special teams touchdowns in stunning the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game: "The bottom line is that you can't go forward looking back."

Neither Everest nor any Steelers special teamer plans to dwell on Smith's opening kickoff return at Heinz Field a month ago or even Lardarius Webb's punt return that set up the tying points late during last week's divisional playoff game against Baltimore.

"We will do the best that we can to help us win this game," Everest said. "We know what we did wrong (against the Jets), and now we have to get ready for the game Sunday night and go get it right."

Everest has done a pretty good job of getting it right since replacing Bob Ligashesky this season, a year after the Steelers allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns in five games.

With veteran free agents like Arnaz Battle, Will Allen and Larry Foote, the Steelers' kickoff unit finished fifth in the NFL this season, allowing 20 yards per kick. Its only hiccup came against the Jets.

Still, Everest knows that wasn't good enough.

"If you go to rescue 20 hostages, and you save 18 and two get killed, they are going to kill you on the tube because ... you are as good as your worst play," Everest said.

The Steelers' worst play easily was Smith's kickoff return. It provided the Jets enough of an edge to steal a 22-17 win.

"We have to do a better job of being disruptive, slowing the guy down and beating blocks," Allen said. "It's a minor thing, but it is a major thing because it was the difference in the game."

Although the coverage units were playing well at the time, Everest felt the need to re-evaluate the kickoff unit.

"We definitely wanted to look at our coverage teams after that Jets game," Anthony Madison said. "So we changed some things on it."

After that game, Everest replaced rookie Crezdon Butler, whose first game was against the Jets, with Keenan Lewis. That lasted one week before he went back to Ike Taylor. Everest also inserted Foote for rookie Jason Worilds, who wasn't 100 percent.

The unit was good against the Browns in Week 17 but struggled last week, allowing a 38-yard kick return and 36-yard punt return while being flagged three times.

"You shoot for perfection," rookie Stevenson Sylvester said. "We haven't been perfect, but I think we had a pretty good year. Nothing really matters except for this game."

That goes for Smith's Week 15 performance against the Steelers and even what Webb did last week.

"They all know right now they have to do whatever they can because it is 60 minutes to Dallas," Everest said.

Additional Information:

Happy returns

Here were the NFL's top kickoff units during the regular season:

1. Cleveland ? 17.8 yards per return

2. Washington ? 19.0

3. N.Y. Jets • 19.6

4. N.Y. Giants • 19.7

5. Steelers • 20.0

6. Kansas City ? 20.2

T7. Detroit • 20.7

T7. Tampa Bay ? 20.7

9. Atlanta • 21.3

10. Jacksonville ? 21.5

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Steelers

  1. Steelers RB Archer trying to catch up after tough rookie season
  2. Steelers LB Timmons has grown into leadership role on defense
  3. Steelers notebook: Backup QB Gradkowski remains out with shoulder issue
  4. Rossi: St. Vincent a football sanctuary during Steelers training camp
  5. Steelers tackle Beachum braces for competition along offensive line
  6. Steelers notebook: Rookie CB Golson still dealing with left shoulder pain
  7. Steelers’ Brown arrives in style, vows to be ‘the best in the world’
  8. Butler, Steelers defense take on new challenges
  9. Steelers ‘confident’ bid for 2023 Super Bowl in offing
  10. Goodell doesn’t discount Pittsburgh’s chances of hosting 2023 Super Bowl
  11. Steelers RB Bell ready despite being in limbo