Thursday, January 31, 2013

Third's The Charm For Steelers Special Teams?; Bicknell jr. Wants "Guys Who Can Move"

Brad Miller-US Presswire

Three special teams coaches in three seasons. Amos Jones took over after Al Everest was fired immediately prior to the start of the 2012 season, and now former Washington Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith has taken over for Jones after his contract wasn't renewed. Is the third a charm?

If It Ain't Steel laid out the Steelers special teams' rankings under the guidance of Jones and Everest in part three of All the King's Horses, showing that both the kickoff and the punt return units were average, and that defending kickoffs and punts in 2012 were just bad. - http://ifitaintsteel.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-2012-steelers-all-kings-horses-pt-3.html

At first glance, it would seem that Smith, a Pittsburgh native, is a wonderful choice to reinvigorate the special teams unit and rein in a discombobulated bunch. According to Redskins.com, "in 2011, Smith's special teams unit ranked first in the NFC in kick return average allowed (20.8 yards) for the second consecutive season. Additionally, the unit ranked fifth in the NFC in opponents' average starting position (21.8-yard line on kickoffs).

"He also helped Brandon Banks become one of the league's most consistent return specialists. Banks finished the season with career highs in kick returns and kick return yards with 51 kick returns for 1,174 yards, which led the NFL in both categories....

"In 2010, Smith's unit ranked first in the NFC in kick return average allowed (19.0 yards) and second in the NFC in opponents' average starting position (23.7-yard line on kickoffs)."

You excited yet, Steeler Nation? Well, slow your roll. The team's website should be expected to paint a flowery picture of its personnel. We're not saying that it's sophistry, but what's presented isn't the entire picture.

Behind The Steel Curtain interviewed Kevin Ewoldt, managing editor of HogsHaven.com, and he 'mentioned how much the players like Smith,' but suggested that the fans "generally are not too fond of Danny Smith."

As HogsHaven.com further pointed out, 'Football Outsiders' rankings of the Redskins special teams units has them ranked 27th last season.' In fact, they were ranked '25th, 6th, 11th, 16th, 18th, 27th, 26th, 22nd and 30th in the NFL since 2004.' - http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamst

So don't start the parade just yet. There are pros and cons to Mr. Smith. There were definitely highly-rates individual numbers to hang his hat on, and there may be "talent" issues involved in some of the lower rankings. But there is still the consistency of those lower rankings - a matter that would be up to him directly to solve.

BTSC, in our link posted above, did also bring out how "much respect there is for Danny Smith around the league," expressing the fact that "a few years ago, at least five teams (including Pittsburgh) sought permission to interview Smith, but all were denied because the Redskins were intent on keeping him."

As Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday, he wanted "a guy who can inspire a large group of men," and we've noted that his players like him. We see that his bosses obviously did too. That smacks at character. - http://tinyurl.com/ahzu3l8

So, a little new blood and fresh outlook could still be a positive thing, and he doesn't exactly come into a bare cabinet personnel-wise. Then there's the fact that he is a local boy. Let's hope the third's a charm...and that Thomas Wolfe was wrong.

~

On Tuesday, Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest tweeted some comments from the Steelers new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell, jr.

Labriola tweeted these tasty morsels from his Twitter (@BobLabriola) account regarding what Bicknell said of his priorities: "I always talk about how important the run game is, but protecting that QB is our No. 1 job."

Bicknell stated an obvious fact: "I believe the offensive line is the foundation for the football team."

He provided a saliva-inducing statement for any true Steelers fan: "If you can walk off the field and know we dominated the opponent physically, that's the most important stat."

He offered plaudits for the offensive line's anchor: "All you need to do is look at Maurkice Pouncey and figure out what you want in a center."

And, being a zone-blocking teacher and coach, he revealed the importance of athleticism on the line: "(O-linemen) can get too big. Then again, it's not about being too big, it's about not being able to move....I want to be able to have guys who can move, run, and have some quickness off the ball to be able to get into people."

Sounds good, but of course you know that, using that criteria, this means that certain OLinemen won't be back.