View Full Version : Head to Head: Steeler ST's vs Sams

11-26-2006, 06:35 AM
Head to Head: Steelers special teams vs. Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams
Sunday, November 26, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Go ahead, pick the poison.

The staggering number of turnovers -- 27 -- more than any other team in the National Football League.

The inconsistent play of Ben Roethlisberger, who has thrown more interceptions (17) than Bubby Brister did in a season.

A pass defense that has allowed 14 touchdowns, as many as it did all of last season.

None of those, though, disappoint Bill Cowher like the performance of his special teams, which have been anything but special in 2006. In particular, Cowher can't believe the work of the kick-coverage unit, which, statistically, is the worst in the NFL.

"Our coverage team has not been very good," Cowher said.

The Steelers allow opponents the best average starting field position in the league -- 31.6 -- and no wonder: In their past seven games, they have allowed five returns of 45 yards, including four over 50. The longest and -- at the time -- most debilitating came a week ago in Cleveland when Joshua Cribbs appeared to end their season with a 92-yard kick return for touchdown to give the Browns a 20-10 lead with 9:33 remaining.

"It seems like there have been those one or two returns every game and that's not acceptable at this point," Cowher said.

Kick returns are a lot like tax audits -- there is never a good time to have one. And certainly the Steelers will not be able to afford another today in Baltimore.

The Ravens might not have the best dual returner in the league, but they have, in B.J. Sams, the hottest. And most entertaining.

Sams had 212 yards in returns a week ago in a victory against the Atlanta Falcons -- 121 on punts, 91 on kicks -- the fourth-highest single-game total in franchise history.

His 59-yard kick return that set up a touchdown was outdone only by his 59-yard punt return in which he spun, twisted and darted up the middle of the field and, by Cowher's estimation, "must have made six or seven people miss."

"I think he'll be on ESPN all week," said Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce.

Curiously, Sams was having just a modest season until the Falcons game. Now he ranks sixth in the NFL in kick returns (26.0 yds.), third in the league in punt returns (12.5 yds.).

"There's never a good time for a long return, even if you're up by 30," said special-teams co-captain Clint Kriewaldt. "But it's definitely the very worst time we're letting it happen."

Containing Sams will be every bit as essential for the Steelers as stopping quarterback Steve McNair, locating safety Ed Reed and controlling defensive end Adalius Thomas.

In four games against the Steelers, Sams' longest kickoff return is 42 yards. But he has punt returns of 33 and 30 yards against them.

"He has the ability to stop and start and always cut when he's moving full speed," special teams standout Sean Morey said. "That's difficult to do. He's a complete returner."

Cowher indicated he will make changes to the kick-coverage unit in an attempt to find the right people to stop the glut of long returns. The easy answer is to use more starters, only two of whom -- safety Ryan Clark and cornerback Ike Taylor -- are employed on kick coverage.

"I'd be remiss if I didn't say we need to come faster and be more aggressive and force the issue," Morey said.

"Most of it is just effort," Kriewaldt said. "And I don't think we've had a lot of it."


11-26-2006, 06:39 AM
And the Tribune-Review agrees..........

The key matchup: Sams vs. Steelers special teams

By The Tribune-Review
Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams vs. the Steelers' punt and kickoff coverage
B.J. Sam: A former rookie-free agent from McNeese State, Sams announced his presence in the NFL with authority when he returned a pair of punts for touchdowns as a rookie in 2004. He went on to set a Ravens record with 1,826 yards on punt and kickoff returns (eclipsing the mark of 1,558 set by special-teams sensation Jermaine Lewis in 2001). It's been more of the same ever since for Sams, 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. He finished first in the AFC and second in the NFL with a 12,2 average on punt returns in 2005. This season, he's third in the NFL on punt returns (12.5) and fifth on kickoffs (26.0).

The Steelers' punt and kickoff coverage: The Steelers haven't been deficient in one or both of these areas every week this season; it only seems that way. They've surrendered either a punt or kickoff return of 43 or more yards in six of 10 games, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Joshua Cribbs last Sunday in Cleveland. The Steelers at least managed to hold Dennis Northcutt in check on punt returns (one return, 6 yards), which was surprising given Northcutt's status as the NFL leader in punt returns (14.4).

The matchup: Sams was dominating in the Ravens' 24-10 victory over the Falcons last Sunday, reeling off punt returns of 65 and 59 yards as well as a 59-yard kickoff return. The Steelers got special-teams demons Clint Kriewaldt (back) and James Harrison (ankle) back into the mix in Cleveland, two players that helped them excel on kick and punt coverage a year ago. The Steelers will need to rediscover last year's kick- and punt-covering prowess quickly, otherwise Sams will ensure that they have a long afternoon in Baltimore. Edge: Ravens

Last week: The Browns never did get a consistent running game going and were unable to protect quarterback Charlie Frye, who was sacked five times and hurried throughout the Steelers' 24-20 victory. Nose tackle Casey Hampton was credited with five tackles and came through with his usual dominating performance against Browns center Hank Fraley. Edge: Steelers


11-26-2006, 06:56 AM
I certainly hope the Steelers find their ST mojo today - they're going to need it. I believe we can compete well against the Ravens in all other areas of the game, but our ST's are going to have to bring their AA+ game today to try to limit Sams. They may just have to resort to kicking the ball out of bounds and allowing the Rats to start on their own 40 rather than risk a long return (or several), which someone mentioned here this past week. I hope the Steelers can win the opening toss and get 7 on the board before giving Sams any kind of opportunity to break one. Fingers crossed.

11-26-2006, 07:44 AM
:tt02: :helmet: :banging: :wink02:
Sams is dangerous of course everyone knows that at least us fans do...:wave:

11-26-2006, 10:37 AM
So you want to give them the ball at the 40 for free?

I'd rather the ST at least attempt to defend the return