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Old 12-27-2008, 02:26 AM   #1
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Default Steelers' special-teams play an overall strength

Steelers' special-teams play an overall strength
By Mike Wilkening
Dec. 24, 2008

You will hear much discussion of the NFLís playoff teams in the weeks to come, and the vast majority of it will be about offense and defense. A teamís special-teams play probably wonít be discussed much ó unless a play in the kicking game plays a role in the outcome of a game, of course.

And special-teams play invariably will have a role in deciding some postseason contests. Look no further than the case of the Steelersí recent playoff history. They lost the 2001 AFC championship game in part, because of Patriotsí TDs off a blocked field goal and a punt return. They survived in the 2004 divisional round because Jets PK Doug Brien missed field goals of 47 and 43 yards at Heinz Field. And last season, the Steelers squandered an early lead to Jacksonville in the wild-card round by letting KR Maurice Jones-Drew rumble 96 yards on a kickoff return that set up the Jaguarsí first TD. The Steelers fell, 31-29.

Entering the í08 playoffs, the Steelers have to like the production they are getting from their special teams in most facets, especially their kickoff and punt coverage, which have been excellent. Reserve CB Anthony Madison (24 special-teams tackles entering Week 17, according to the team), LB Keyaron Fox (19 special-teams tackles) have been especially productive on the coverage units, with rookie LB Patrick Bailey and second-year CB William Gay also playing important roles. And donít overlook the play of starting ROLB James Harrison, who notched double-digit tackles on special teams this season in addition to playing at an MVP-level on defense.

The Steelersí specialists also are playing well. PK Jeff Reed has proven time and again he can handle the elements at Heinz Field, which can include all of the following in January: less-than-ideal footing, swirling winds and cold temperatures. Also, Mitch Berger has punted well since rejoining the team in November.

Perhaps the only pressing concern about the Steelersí special teams are their returners. WR Santonio Holmes, one of the clubís top gamebreakers on offense, was averaging only 7.0 yards on punts entering Week 17. Also, the Steelers donít have a gamebreaking kickoff returner. RB Gary Russell, who leads the club in kickoffs returned, is known for his power, not his speed.
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Old 12-27-2008, 06:08 AM   #2

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Default Re: Steelers' special-teams play an overall strength

I love our special teams this year. They are kind of quiet though , and i rellish that too.
I think they are the hidden component , to our success.
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Old 12-27-2008, 07:25 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers' special-teams play an overall strength

The only thing I see wrong with this article is that Mitch Berger is not punting all that well maybe they was watching someone else play.
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Old 12-27-2008, 08:39 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers' special-teams play an overall strength

Field position is key in the playoffs and as long as our ST's can pin the opponent back, our D will take care of the rest. I agree that our ST's have played fairly well this season.

I, too, wish we had better KR/PR's, but it is what it is.

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Old 12-27-2008, 08:50 AM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers' special-teams play an overall strength

Wow. What a difference a year can make. I've thoroughly enjoyed watching the special teams (and defense) kick butt and take numbers. Wonder if they've looked at Dixon as a return guy?
If I could be like that,
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Old 12-27-2008, 08:55 AM   #6
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Default Re: Steelers' special-teams play an overall strength

I agree with Galax. Punting is still an issue. And we are better than in the past. But still need work on ST.

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