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Smith on captains, 'the stick,' and more

Posted Sep 28, 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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Something special: When the Steelers team captains were announced this year, there was a break from the tradition from the past few years. There was an offensive and defensive captain, but for the first time since 2013 there was no special teams’ captain named for the season.

But, come game day, there is always a player representing special teams for the coin toss, a player who is named on a weekly basis for their performance in a previous win.

“It came about because we felt like we had a lot of players,” said Smith. “The captain in this organization is not a popularity contest. It’s really on merit. Coach (Mike) Tomlin and I talked about it and felt like if that went week-to-week on performance it would be a beneficial thing. We had some ways to do it and make it more effective. Just trying to make it more effective.”

Carry a big stick: Tyler Matakevich will be the special teams’ captain once again this week, a carryover from the team’s win against the Vikings. It will be the third straight game for Matakevich to be special teams’ captain, and it is all based on merit.

In the Steelers opener against the Browns Matakevich blocked a punt that Anthony Chickillo recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The following week the Vikings attempted a fake punt, and he broke up punter Ryan Quigley’s pass to Blake Bell, giving the Steelers great field position at the Vikings 36-yard line.  

Matakevich was named captain for the Vikings and Bears game as a result of that play, and will once again hold the title this week. He also has held on to the special teams’ ‘stick,’ a reward of sorts for standout play.

“We have a stick that is a walking stick in Steelers black and gold,” said Smith. “It’s well-designed by our equipment man Adam (Regan). It’s an honor and a privilege to get the stick. We only do it after wins. That is why we are all here. That is what we are measured by, the wins first. The stick comes after that.

“It’s for a big play, a game changing play if you will, a number of tackles, downing the ball, a blocked punt, whatever it might be. We choose that and that person gets the stick for the next week and they are the captain the following week. We put their number on the stick. They get to keep the stick. The guy with the most numbers at the end of the season, it’s his stick for the year.”

Return game: Eli Rogers has stepped in this season as the punt returner, taking over for Antonio Brown. There has been a bit of rough sledding so far, including a fumbled punt return against the Bears that resulted in a touchdown.

Smith touched a bit on why the change was made, and what needs to be done moving forward. This is just a taste of it. Listen to the audio for the full explanation.

“It’s just another opportunity for another guy,” said Smith. “He has to do a much better job. I have to do a better job coaching him, he has to do a better job in decision making. It’s quite obvious. We have to do a better job there.”