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Steelers Special Teams Not So Special

October 11, 2014
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Steelers Special Teams Not So Special

Pittsburgh Steelers Special Teams

The Steelers’ special teams – aside from the rare exceptions – haven’t been as advertised during the preseason.

The addition of rookie Dri Archer, coupled with an explosive Antonio Brown, was supposed to give the Steelers an advantage in the return game. Neither has affected field position, in part, because new rules have put kickoff returns on the endangered list.

More troublesome for special teams coach Danny Smith, Archer and Brown haven’t had many alleys to run through. And their limited opportunities have been affected by penalties, including four in a 17-9 win at Jacksonville on Sunday.

“As a unit, we’re trying to keep penalties out of our game,” linebacker Terence Garvin said. “You might be in a position sometimes trying to make something happen. It’s technique-type stuff when it comes to holding — or lining up offside.”

“We have to get in the film room and minimize some of the penalties,”€ Archer said. “I’m not sure what it is, but we can’t continue to start drives on our 10-yard line. Once you see a hole, you have to hit it. I can’t be indecisive.”

Safety Robert Golden said it’s a matter of time before the special teams will impact the outcome of games.

“We need to clean our hands of some of the penalties that have changed field position for us,”€ he said. “We haven’t gotten a lot of chances on kickoff returns, but as the weather becomes a factor, we’ll get more opportunities.”

The Steelers are hoping to cure what ails their special teams, especially on returns, when they face the Browns in their rematch at FirstEnergy Field. The Browns are a slim favorite, meaning special teams play could be the difference maker.

“I think we all are anxious to get things going with the return teams,”€ Archer said. “We haven’t had many opportunities, but once everything starts clicking, things will start rolling.”

The Steelers are averaging 8.7 yards on punt returns and 16.8 on kickoff returns, which ranks 14th and 29th, respectively, in the NFL.

Archer, who missed two games with injuries, is averaging 16.3 yards on four kickoff returns with a season-high of 23 yards.

“There’s always some anxiety with returning kicks because you want to break one,” Archer said. “But I have to let the game come to me. If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen.”

The Steelers, though, could find themselves in a situation where they will have to make something happen with special teams. So often, they are losing the field position battles, particularly in the second half.

“I feel we can be a lot better on special teams,” Golden said. “We’re not where we want to be, but I like where we’re headed.”

While the return teams have struggled, Golden and cornerback Antwon Blake remain among the league’s best on kick coverage.

“I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s frustrating at times because you have to go above what you think you should be doing,”€ Blake said. “I’ve got to fight through the double teams and try to make a play, but that comes with the territory.

“It doesn’t matter if I have two or three people on me. I have to keep working harder to make a play, especially against a team like Cleveland, because Travis Benjamin is a dangerous return guy.”

The Steelers are hoping the Browns are as giving as they were in their first meeting. Golden tossed a 25-yard completion to Blake off a fake punt, and Brown had a 49-yard punt return to set up a 38-yard touchdown run by Le’Veon Bell in a 30-27 win over Cleveland.

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