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Free kicks, no excuses, and AB & Eli

Posted Oct 19, 2017

Learn more in this week's edition of Coordinator's Corner.

Each week one of the Steelers coordinators will share their insight in an exclusive interview that can be heard on SNR every Thursday in the 3 p.m. hour.

This version of Coordinators Corner will give you a sneak peek of what to expect, but it just touches the surface. Read what they have to say, but take my advice, listen every Thursday for the full interview. It will be worth your time.

Featured this week is special teams coordinator Danny Smith.

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Free kick: After the Steelers recorded a safety against the Chiefs last week, they had the chance to get the ball right back with a free kick. As we all know things didn’t turn out as planned, as the punt wasn’t fielded by Antonio Brown, and Jehu Chesson recovered the ball for the Chiefs at the Steelers’ 32-yard line.

The Steelers had their punt returners back there, because even though it’s considered a ‘free kick,’ it does come in the form of a punt.

“You can’t use a tee,” said Smith. “That is why most people punt. You can’t use a tee. That is why people choose to punt generally. You can hold it and kick, but that is generally why people choose to punt.  

“You send out the punt returners, which we did in that case. I thought we were misaligned when we were on the field, but we weren’t. His longest punt is 62 yards going into that game. We aligned the punt returns up at 55, which is fair. We had to move up nine to get that ball.

“We have to field that ball. There are no excuses. It wasn’t a nice punt, it was floating, and it was windy. We are going to play in those conditions, we do all of the time. We practice in those conditions. We have to field the football, plain and simple.”

The rest of the crew: While the punt returners drop back for the free kick, it’s the kickoff return unit that that takes the field for the free kick.

“It’s a return unit,” said Smith. “You can’t attack them at the line of scrimmage because they have a 10-yard restraining line like you do on the kickoff. It’s a different type of play because it’s more of a kickoff return type, although it is a punt.”

Still in the running: While Brown was the go-to guy for punt returns the last few games, it doesn’t mean that Eli Rogers is out of the running.

“We need guys to do that. We really do,” said Smith. “It just so happens in our makeup of our football team, we don’t have a lot of guys. We don’t have a lot of numbers at that position. We go out for pregame warmups with less returners than anybody in this league. We address it at different times. It’s the availability of guys. He (Antonio) and Eli are two guys who can do it. I am not opposed to going back to Eli, but he has to prove he can do it. But AB didn’t handle the ball well a couple of times. We have to do better in that area. It’s just attention to detail and focus. We have to do a better job of fielding the football.”

The rest: Who got ‘the stick’ this week for special teams? Only one way to find out that and some other really good stuff from Smith is to tune in to the full interview this afternoon on SNR.