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83-Steelers-43
11-22-2006, 07:40 AM
Cowher's attention on special team problems
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bill Cowher's impatience with the Steelers' kickoff-coverage team may have reached the breaking-a-long-one point.

Josh Cribbs' 92-yard touchdown return that put the Browns back on top by 10 points in the fourth quarter Sunday in Cleveland might have done the trick. With All-Pro returner B.J. Sams lurking -- or smacking his lips -- Sunday in Baltimore, Cowher is ready to make a change.

"Where we are right now, we're going to have a big challenge because our coverage team has not been very good," Cowher said.

He might do something drastic, such as putting more starters on the kickoff team. The prospect of seeing former special-teams terror Brett Keisel and his 285 pounds bounding down under kicks or All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu chasing Sams Sunday would be enticing.

"I'm considering anything and everything," Cowher pronounced firmly yesterday. "Something has to change somewhere and somehow. The results right now are not where they need to be. It's disappointing."

Cowher also talked about making changes to his starting lineup before the Steelers played the New Orleans Saints Nov. 12 and made none. But this time, he seems determined to do something to improve a kickoff-coverage team that ranks fifth from the bottom of the league, allowing opponents to start their series on average at the 29.5-yard line.

Two starters have been on the kickoff team much of the season, cornerback Ike Taylor and free safety Ryan Clark. It also includes No. 3 cornerback Bryant McFadden, who has started three games because of injuries to Deshea Townsend.

The options for adding others are not many besides Keisel and Polamalu. Former special teams co-captain Chidi Iwuoma, one of their best kick- and punt-coverage men, was released the day before the opener.

Cowher has become so frustrated that he has had kicker Jeff Reed pooch a few kickoffs to keep deep men from returning them. Special teams co-captain Sean Morey said that kicking off out of bounds also has been suggested, although he did not say by whom. A kickoff out of bounds would place the ball at the opponent's 40.

Steelers kickoffs average 62.9 yards, which ranks 26th in the NFL. Cowher cleared Reed of culpability.

"I understand this time of the year, with the kicking game outside, unless you have two or three guys in this league that are just kickoff guys, you're going to have to deal with the field position being higher," Cowher said.

"But you can't give up the returns that we gave up the other day -- you go back to New Orleans, we gave up a 50-yard return there. Denver was the best kickoff coverage that we've had all year. It seems like there has been those one or two returns every game, and that's not acceptable at this point."

Cribbs also returned a third-quarter kick 30 yards to the 37. Other big kickoff returns were turned in by San Diego's Michael Turner (51) Atlanta's Allen Rossum (51, 45), Oakland's Chris Carr (50) and Michael Lewis of New Orleans (43).

The problem puzzles the coach because he said it's not something that consistently wrong that led to all the big returns.

"It's different. We've consistently had breakdowns. If it was one thing, you'd be able to pinpoint it. It just takes one guy out of the lane and them hitting the right return and then you have what you have."

Baltimore's Sams averages 26 yards returning kicks with a long of 72. He has not scored a touchdown this season and is more celebrated for his punt returns than kickoff returns. He scored on two punt returns last season when he averaged 10.5 yards. He averages 12.5 yards on 24 punt returns this season.

"He's a guy that makes people miss," Cowher said. "He has outstanding vision. He has strength. He has everything you're looking for. They have a very good kicking game."

Cowher praised his own kickoff-return team and said he has no changes in mind there, although Ike Taylor might replace Najeh Davenport, who has an injured groin, on deep returns. Sean Morey, who returned a kick 72 yards against the Browns, will remain on the job.

The Steelers have lost three fumbles or muffs on kick and punt returns this season.

"I'm very pleased with the kickoff return," Cowher said. "That is the only phase [of special teams] that I feel that we've made progress ... we've gotten nothing out of our punt return."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06326/740387-66.stm

Infamix
11-22-2006, 07:56 AM
I hold my breath on EVERY special teams play this year. I really hope that it is fixed soon.

PisnNapalm
11-22-2006, 08:27 AM
I cringe and cover my eyes each time I see Holmes back to return a kick.

BigDuke6
11-22-2006, 11:17 AM
I just go away on all 4th down situations. I get rid of some beer, or go get another beer, go have a smoke, or go get a slice of pizza, something, anything but watch the carnage on 4th down.

lamberts-lost-tooth
11-22-2006, 11:22 AM
At the beginning of the season I was horrified to see Morgan go....and specifically for this reason...He was a monster on returns ...and a very good reciever...probably one of the best in the league on drawing the passing interference call.....we could use him on both accounts this year in a big way

vasteeler
11-22-2006, 12:36 PM
At the beginning of the season I was horrified to see Morgan go....and specifically for this reason...He was a monster on returns ...and a very good reciever...probably one of the best in the league on drawing the passing interference call.....we could use him on both accounts this year in a big way

B I N G O TO BAD THE FO DID NOT SEE IT THAT WAY

klick81
11-22-2006, 01:03 PM
I HOPE they fix the special teams problem. No way we win eight in a row with horrible s.t. coverage.

BigDuke6
11-22-2006, 04:04 PM
At the beginning of the season I was horrified to see Morgan go....and specifically for this reason...He was a monster on returns ...and a very good reciever...probably one of the best in the league on drawing the passing interference call.....we could use him on both accounts this year in a big way

Dead on Brother. I felt the same way. A solid (if unspectacular) veteran receiver. Good on STs and as a 3rd or 4th WR.