Checking the boxes:** Following the 2016 NFL Draft, special teams coordinator Danny Smith talked about the qualities he looks for in a returner. He rattled off a long list, stating that he makes sure any player the Steelers consider check those boxes.
When it comes to Antonio Brown, he does more than check the boxes.
"AB is off the chart," said Smith. "He isn't even in the boxes. AB has his own chart. Again, it's something that I come up with to evaluate. We talk about, this guy's good, this guy's bad, this guy can't do this, and this guy can't do that. I just like to see what our players can do, as opposed to what they can't do. And it was just a way, a method of why is he good, why is he capable of these things. If we're talking about any particular returner, and yes he does – he checks all those boxes.
"The guy is fearless, he has a great skillset, and he's a great competitor on top of it. I mean his hands, his speed, his quickness, his vision – all of those things you can talk about him about where you put him would be off the charts. He does check all those boxes."
- Special adjustments: When it comes to the NFL, college superstars are often special team's aces as opposed to starters in their first few years in the league, something Smith said is an adjustment for many.
"A lot of these guys coming out of college have not participated on their special teams – at least in game conditions," said Smith. "Most of them I find have practiced it and practiced it, but obviously it's very different in game conditions. So we got to teach them a lot of technique work, as opposed to lining up and running a kickoff team or lining up and covering a punt. We have to teach them a lot of technique issues, like you do at every position once you get to the NFL level."
The Steelers participate in Day 10 of the 2016 Organized Team Activities at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
No need to preach:** Just the fact that Brown, the team's leading receiver, has been such an integral part of the Steelers' return game is reason enough for Smith to not have to preach to rookies the importance of their role on special teams.
"I don't really have to preach to them about it here," said Smith. "It is very important, that starts with the head coach and special teams is a vital part of this whole organization. You know starting with the owner and the administration and the head coach, so it's very easy for me in those terms.
"But I do have a conversation with them and it's really simple. You're not on full scholarship here. If you produce you get to stay, if I produce I get to stay, and if we don't then neither one of us are here. So it's really simple. I don't have to try to talk them into anything or anything like that."