Sunday, January 27, 2013

The 2012 Steelers - All The King's Horses..., pt. 3: Special Teams

by Jayden and Jason

They had a great fall...
It's fitting that this final piece covering the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 season begins with an ending. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on Saturday that Amos Jones, the Steelers now-former special teams coach, accepted the same position with Pittsburgh West, formerly known as the Arizona Cardinals. -

In part one of the All the King's Horses series, we addressed where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and even team president Art Rooney II all had a hand in the demise of the offense. -

In part two we took on the defense and how numbers can be misleading. Yes, they were ranked No. 1, but there were key components missing that prevented the unit from being truly dominant. -

Now, the third installment covers the final field unit: special teams.

The lone bright spot for the special teams unit this season was the Wunderkind himself, Shaun "Sushi" Suisham. Sushi was 34-34 in extra points and 28-31 in field goals, with two of those missing kicks being from 53 and 54 yards, which was good for 90.3% and seventh in the league. That's basically where the good news ends.

Drew Butler, the son of former NFL kicker Kevin Butler, was an undrafted free agent rookie signed by the Steelers who beat out Jeremy Kapinos for the starting punter position. But he was inconsistent and ranked 18th overall among NFL punters, and his 43.8 yard average landed him all the way down at 26th among his brethren. While punt coverage, or lack thereof, can affect averages, it ultimately still falls on the punter.

Speaking of "coverage," it almost seems a bad word to use in this case considering that's something the Steelers' special teams did so little of this season. They were ranked 12th and 23rd in opponents kick and punt returns in 2012, allowing 24.0 and 10.2 yards respectively.

The punt unit also allowed a touchdown, which was the straw breaking the Steelers' back in the first Baltimore Ravens game, and committed costly penalties in several other games that altered field position as well as outcomes.

The Steelers ranked 12th and 23rd in returning kicks and punts also, averaging 25.3 and 7.3 yards in each category, with Antonio Brown averaging only 6.8 yards on 27 punt returns.

Days before the season, head coach Mike Tomlin fired then-special teams coordinator Al Everest and Jones was promoted to the head position. They were no better in 2011 under Everest.

The Steelers ranked 19th in the NFL in opponents' kick returns and 25th in punt returns. They ranked 25th and 14th in their own kick and punt returns.

It is unclear why Everest was ever let go in the first place, but 'philosophical differences' seemed to be the reasoning. One feather in Everest's cap was that there were no returns for touchdowns, something that had plagued the previous regime.

And now Jones is gone too. Who'll replace him? We don't know, but it couldn't be difficult to make a lateral shift. Based on his team's performance, Jones comes off as if he could go bobbing in a barrel of boobs and still come out sucking his thumb.

Since the Steelers organization hasn't said much of anything about it, we believe that he simply didn't have his contract renewed.

The Steelers special teams unit this season often seemed disjointed, out of position, overly aggressive and overly penalized at different times. Fumbles and missed tackles also plagued them. It's an ugly, ongoing trend that all the Rooney's horses and men must rectify in order to put this back together again.

UPDATE: After the posting of this blog, Ed Bouchette reported that the Steelers were granted permission to interview Washington Redskins special teams coach and Pittsburgh native Danny Smith. Rather than write another piece on this, we'll let Behind The Steel Curtain do the talking for us:


TIDBITS: Two-time Super Bowl champ "Big Play" Deshea Townsend will lead Mississippi State's cornerbacks. -


Mike Tomlin has to replace more than one position coach, including the offensive line coach. Russ Grimm won't be on the short list. Per Ed Bouchette, Grimm thought he had the Steelers head coaching job when Bill Cowher quit. Instead, the Rooneys gave it to Tomlin, and Grimm bitterly left with Ken Whisenhunt to Arizona. To quote Bouchette, "there is no way he would come back for the same job as line coach."