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mesaSteeler
11-17-2009, 06:57 AM
Harris: Put Harrison, Keisel on special teams

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_653507.html#

As a concession to potential injury and their status on the team, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin relieved Pro Bowl outside linebacker James Harrison and starting defensive end Brett Keisel of important special teams responsibilities.

It's time for Tomlin to stop being Mr. Nice Guy and return Harrison and Keisel to the trenches with the other special teams grunts.

It was 2007 all over again for the Steelers during Sunday's special teams meltdown in a critical 18-12 loss to Cincinnati at Heinz Field.

Only this time it wasn't Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs returning kickoffs for 100 and 90 yards in the same game, or Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew's backbreaking kickoff return in the AFC Wild Card playoff game.

Pin this loss on the special teams for allowing another kickoff return for a touchdown, the third kickoff returned for a score against the Steelers in four games.

If Tomlin truly believes special teams are just as important as his offense and defense, he'll shake up the lineup before Sunday's game at Kansas City.

"It's something we've worked on, something that obviously we're aware of and it just seems to keep happening,'' Keisel said. "I'm sure coach Tomlin is going to address it and I'm sure some moves are going to be made. Who knows? I might be at (my old position) again.''

Tomlin took the first step when he replaced Stefan Logan with rookie Mike Wallace after Logan returned yet another kickoff deep in the end zone and failed to reach the 20-yard line.

Why stop there? Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes returned a punt for a touchdown against Carolina in his rookie season. Holmes' most important punt return went for a 67-yard touchdown against San Diego in last year's divisional playoff game.

Holmes wants to return punts full time, but Tomlin won't let him.

The return teams need proven playmakers like Holmes.

Said Logan, a free agent from the Canadian Football League who was stripped of the ball on a punt return against San Diego this season that resulted in a touchdown: "I put a lot of pressure on myself because we've had three kickoffs run back on us.''

The kickoff team needs bigger and faster athletes like Harrison and Keisel, who were longtime special teams mainstays. Starting inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons should also return to special teams, joining starting cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay, who are already on the kickoff team.

It's no coincidence that the performance of the special teams has slacked off since the departure of Harrison, Keisel and Timmons.

Sure, it's a gamble to play starters on special teams because of the injury risk. Football is a violent enough sport as it is. Allowing key starters to also play special teams is the NFL's version of Russian roulette.

However, the Steelers can't afford to lose any more games because of poor special teams play.

Watching kicker Jeff Reed run away from making tackles on kickoff returns is comic relief at best, six points at worst.

But seeing players who are paid to only play special teams getting blown up at the point of attack, not getting through blocks and not putting the opposing return man on the ground can have a devastating effect on the rest of the team.

"You can't quite put your finger on it right now. You watch the tape, guys are giving effort,'' backup linebacker and special teams captain Keyaron Fox said. "We're just not getting to the ball, we're not tackling the football.''

Kickoffs returned for touchdowns are momentum-changers. The Steelers never recovered from Jones-Drew's return that set up a short touchdown run during their playoff loss two years ago. In Sunday's game, the Steelers never led following rookie Bernard Scott's 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Defensive captain James Farrior said the failure of the special teams falls on everyone.

"It's not just special teams. It's offensive players and defensive players out there. We've all got to be held accountable,'' Farrior said.

Sorry. I'll accept Farrior's explanation when the Steelers' special teams is blamed for the defense giving up points. It's Tomlin's responsibility to put his best special teams players on the field and that hasn't been the case this season.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

markymarc
11-17-2009, 11:21 AM
Well Tomlin has made 1 decision already in bringing back Donovan Woods. Actually it sucks that the Colts secondary has been banged up and them picking up Anthony Madison. I'd be willing to bet that if Madison was still out there he would be on the roster. Maybe once Carey Davis gets healthy again, he might even help improve special teams a little.

Let's see what Woods can do on Sunday :tt02:

TackleMeBen
11-17-2009, 11:25 AM
i dont care who they put on ST as long as they can freaking tackle.... no way should a ST group give up that many TDs

Steelboy84
11-17-2009, 11:39 AM
i dont care who they put on ST as long as they can freaking tackle.... no way should a ST group give up that many TDs

Our special teams from last year and this year are like night and day.

We didn't give up one ST TD last year.

Dino 6 Rings
11-17-2009, 12:30 PM
I'm flashing back to 2007 with this talk of tackling on kickoffs. Pretty sure I posted next to every "free agent" thread..."but can he tackle on kickoff"

Kind of funny, but twice as sad.

Jmat
11-17-2009, 12:40 PM
Take Stefon Logan off off special teams. He's been a waste of a roster spot. He rarely makes tackles and he hasn't been close to taking one to the house on kick returns.

Borski
11-17-2009, 03:31 PM
Take Stefon Logan off off special teams. He's been a waste of a roster spot. He rarely makes tackles and he hasn't been close to taking one to the house on kick returns.

As long as he doesnt cough up the ball like Ricardo Colclough I am happy with him back there

revefsreleets
11-17-2009, 03:47 PM
I saw James Harrison out there for at least one KR, so this is already being done....

OneForTheToe
11-17-2009, 04:12 PM
Keisel isn't going to be a special team beast anymore. He was about 15 pound lighter when he played special teams.

tyler289
11-17-2009, 04:14 PM
I'm not sure I want Keisel out there running ST when he's starting for Aaron...

AllD
11-17-2009, 04:33 PM
Holmes wants to return punts full time, but Tomlin won't let him.

The return teams need proven playmakers like Holmes.



Time to think outside the box and get this team going again. They have been misfiring all season.

Shea
11-17-2009, 10:36 PM
Keisel isn't going to be a special team beast anymore. He was about 15 pound lighter when he played special teams.

Keisel has always had great speed for a man his side, so I don't think the weight difference would effect him in that aspect.

I'd really like to see him and Harrison back out there just to put some nasty back into our special teams. Atleast temporarily until the coaching staff can figure out how to fix our ST issues. We're getting killed in that area, and it's costing us games.

pepsyman1
11-18-2009, 01:06 AM
I don't know if it's personnel or coaching/schemes being employed by Ligashesky, or a combination of both, but there is obviously a problem on both sides of the kick return equation. I think Logan is actually doing a good job returning, but he's getting little support and blocking. It appears that he's having to start dealing with defenders much earlier than our opponents usually are when we kick off to them. I would have to imagine that the problem is both personnel and the coaching. We are currently 4th worst in average yardage given up per kickoff. Most of the time, opposing kick returners are getting almost 20 yards upfield before they are having to contend with our tacklers. Logan is usually starting to fight people off 5 yards earlier than that, but is still maintaining a healthy average.