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Punt team up for the challenge

Posted Oct 19, 2017

Matakevich: 'It doesn't really matter who's back there'.

DO IT AGAIN: The Steelers survived their kicking game showdown against wide receiver/punt returner Tyreek Hill in Kansas City but they’ll be challenged again this Sunday _ potentially _ by Cincinnati cornerback/punt returner Adam Jones.

That comes as no surprise to the guys who comprise the Steelers’ special teams.

“There are new challenges every week,” linebacker Tyler Matakevich said. “Every team has a different guy who’s a play-maker.”

Jones has only returned three punts this season (for an average of 27 yards per return) but he has five career punt-return touchdowns.

“If you have all your guys doing their job, it doesn’t really matter who’s back there,” Matakevich said. “It might make it a little harder, but at the end of the day you should still get it done.”

Hill had a 32-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter last Sunday but was unable to add to his career total of four returns for a score. Fullback Roosevelt Nix and Matakevich were able to get Hill on the ground after he’d advanced a punt from the Chiefs’ 12-yard line to the Kansas City 44 with 1:42 remaining in regulation.

The defense closed out the Steelers’ 19-13 victory from there.

“That guy is the best right now at taking those punts back to the crib,” Nix said. “Just to be able to stop him, we played him well. There’s definitely room for improvement but I was proud of our unit.”

Nix emerged with “The Stick,” which is awarded to the Steelers’ best special teams player following victories.

Linebacker Anthony Chickillo and Matakevich shared “The Stick” after the Steelers’ season-opening win on Sept. 10 in Cleveland. Subsequent honorees have included Matakevich (Sept. 17, Minnesota) and cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (Oct. 1, Baltimore).

FAMILIAR FOES: Steelers cornerback Joe Haden became quite accustomed to covering Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green during Haden’s seven seasons in Cleveland, so unfamiliarity won’t be an issue at Heinz Field.

“He came in a year after me,” Haden said of Green, a first-round draft pick of the Bengals in 2011. “I’ve been following him ever since. He’s got the best of me sometimes and I’ve got the best of him, too.

“I do a lot of press- (coverage), I’m able to kind of get my hands on him on the line, just kind of throw off the timing. That’s really what I’ve been able to do, just press him, get hands on him.”

Haden doesn’t anticipate shadowing Green all over the field in their first Bengals-Steelers matchup.

“We’re going to have a couple little schemes but I don’t think I’ll be following him,” Haden said. “We stay left (cornerback) and right (cornerback).

“It’s cool. Artie (Burns), he’s a really good corner, too, and he feels like he can cover everyone. If you’re a corner and you want to be a top in the game, he feels like he can cover everybody just the same way I do.”

COMBATIVE AS THEY HAVE TO BE: No matter who ends up on Green during a given snap, the objective, as always, will be to make the combat-catch opportunities as combative as possible.

That’s what safety Sean Davis did on a pass to tight end Demetrius Harris on fourth-and-2 from the Steelers’ 4-yard line early in the fourth quarter in Kansas City.

“I took it from him, then it fell out,” Davis explained of a pass from quarterback Alex Smith to Harris that was ultimately ruled incomplete, which maintained a 12-3 Steelers’ lead. “As I was coming down to the ground and I was turning we were battling for it, I had it, and I just lost it. Once I knew he didn’t have it I didn’t care about the interception.

“As long as he didn’t have it, that was good for me.”

Harris had both hands on the ball initially, but as his feet hit the ground Davis was able to pry the ball away.

“That’s part of playing DB, you have to always fight until the whistle blows,” Davis said. “Just because he had it doesn’t mean the play was over. I always fight for the ball. I put it on display right there.”