Special teams must stop Dante Hall
By Mike Prisuta
Saturday, October 14, 2006
As he prepares to chase Dante Hall across a second continent, Sean Morey is keenly aware of what he and his fellow Steelers' special teamers will be up against when Kansas City visits Heinz Field on Sunday.
"He's a fast, quick, explosive guy that can stop on a dime and get to full speed in a heartbeat," Morey said.
Morey first came to that conclusion while playing in NFL Europe as a defensive back for Barcelona assigned to somehow shadow Hall, then a wide receiver for Scotland.
These days, Hall is on the brink of making NFL history.
His six career kickoff returns for touchdowns are an NFL record (as are the six kickoff return scores recorded by Ollie Matson, Gale Sayers, Travis Williams and Mel Gray).
And Hall's 11 combined returns for touchdowns (kickoffs and punts) rank third all-time, and trail by two Brian Mitchell's NFL-record 13.
"He's different," linebacker Clint Kriewaldt, like Morey a Steelers' special teams captain, said of Hall. "He keeps things alive. Even on a kickoff, if it's not there he's still back there dancing. I don't know what it is, but he's definitely different.
"There's something special about him."
Hall has already returned one punt for a touchdown this season.
He took a kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown against the Steelers in 2003, when he became the first player in NFL history to score on a kickoff or punt return in four consecutive games.
The Steelers may not see Hall at his best tomorrow.
He missed practice Wednesday and Thursday and was downgraded Thursday from probable to questionable (hip).
Hall practiced Friday.
Either way, the Steelers' coverage units will have to be more disciplined than they were last Sunday night in San Diego.
The Chargers' Michael Turner opened the second half with a 51-yard kickoff return, which led to a field goal and helped spark San Diego to a 23-13, come-from-behind victory.
Morey had a shot at Turner in the vicinity of the San Diego 25-yard line but missed him.
"I broke through a double-team, came off the wedge, and I was a little too aggressive," Morey said. "I stepped closer to him and tried to hit him.
"If I had given ground I probably could have made a sure tackle, but things happen so fast and you have to play aggressive. You gotta make sure you take shots where you can to disrupt returners and knock 'em down. You can't play it safe."
On the field at the time for the Steelers were wide receiver Nate Washington, running back Najeh Davenport and cornerback Anthony Madison, three players not normally relied upon in such situations.
The Steelers were without three kickoff-team regulars, cornerback Ricardo Colclough (injured reserve), linebacker James Harrison (injured in the first half) and safety Mike Logan (not dressed).
Another hole may have to be plugged tomorrow if Arnold Harrison is taken off the unit because he'll be starting at outside linebacker in place of Joey Porter.
"Guys are expected to go out there and get the job done," Kriewaldt said. "The guys that are going in, they're no slouches, either. They know how to run and tackle.
"We all just have to do our job."