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Old 11-22-2009, 09:42 PM   #1
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Default Steelers' Special Teams Flop Again

Steelers' Special Teams Flop Again
Posted Nov 22, 2009 7:30PM By JJ Cooper (RSS feed)

It's fair to blame the Steelers defense for Sunday's shocking loss 27-24 overtime loss to the Chiefs -- Kansas City simply shouldn't be able to drive the length of the field in overtime to beat Pittsburgh. It's also fair to point fingers at a Pittsburgh offense that piled up over 515 yards of offense, but squandered all of it with two interceptions, a fumble and three costly sacks.

But as the Steelers fans' try to figure out what happened in one of the more embarrassing losses in recent Steelers history, the group that once again is most to blame is Pittsburgh's kick coverage unit -- easily one of the worst group of special teamers in NFL history.

In fact, only one of the Steelers'ir four losses -- their first loss to the Bengals -- can not be blamed, at least in large part, on poor special teams play.

Sunday, Pittsburgh lost by three points in a game that the Chiefs opened up the game with a Jamaal Charles 97-yard kick return touchdown. Last week, the Steelers lost by six in a game that the Bengals returned a kick for a touchdown. They lost to the Bears in a game that kicker Jeff Reed missed two field goals in the fourth quarter.

They've also managed to survive kick returns for touchdowns against the Browns and Vikings. There have been 13 kick returns for touchdowns this year -- nearly one third of them (four) have happened against the Steelers. There were only 13 kick return touchdowns off last season -- Pittsburgh is on pace to give up seven themselves this year.

Kick returns for touchdowns are supposed to be such special events. It's like seeing a Ferrari on the Interstate -- you don't see one every day so it stands out. Against the Steelers, seeing a kick-return touchdown is like seeing a Toyota Camry at a stoplight. Ho-hum, just a normal part of the day.

At this point, it's hard to see how the Steelers will manage to fix their kick coverage problems this season. They could hurry up and fire special teams coach Bob Ligashesky now, instead of waiting until after the season. That may make Steelers fans feel a little better, but there aren't any top-notch special teams coaches out there looking for work during the season. They could try to add a special teams ace off the waiver wire, but there aren't really any special teams studs who could fix this problem sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.

So the best answer seems to be that Pittsburgh will have to move some starters back onto kick coverage. Teams don't like to do that because it wears out your starters and risks injury -- it's even more of a problem for a team whose defense is filled with guys who are on the wrong side of 30. Mike Tomlin told the CBS crew working this week's game that such a move would be a band-aid when he wanted to fix the problem for good.

But at this point, a band-aid sounds like it would be better than nothing.
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