Shortly after the Steelers drafted Demarcus Ayres, the punt return specialist from Houston, in the seventh round, special teams coordinator Danny Smith sat in the media room at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex and went through a laundry list of what he looks for in a returner.
"I look at their hands, their quickness," said Smith. "Do they muff? Are there fumbles? What's their decision making? What's their vision? What's their ability to avoid? Do they break tackles? Are they fearless? Are they tough? Will they outrun coverage? Do they have touchdown speed? Are they sideline returners? Are they middle returners? Can they make cuts at full speed? Are they a must gather guy? Can they make the first guy miss? Do they only get what's blocked? Do they have the ability to create? And I plus and minus all of those qualities. Then after I plus and minus those qualities, I reach a conclusion. That's how I come up the list and rate."
After he came up for air, he shared where he ranked Ayers with all the items on the list.
"This kid had more of those qualities as a punt returner than anyone else I evaluated," said Smith.
Ayers was among those who heard what Smith had to say. And understandably, he liked it.
"To know he thinks that and wants to work with me to make me better, it gave me chills," said Ayers, who is taking part in the Steelers three day rookie minicamp. "I am excited to work with him. I want to get in there and pick his brain. Maybe I can take some punt returns and kick returns to the house.
"Returning punts is something I have the talent to do, but I love doing it too. When I am back there I want to get the ball and make a play for the team. I have fun waiting to catch the ball, and when I catch the ball I have fun making a guy miss and making a play for my teammates. I have the talent to do it, but I also enjoy doing it."
Ayers said there is an art to returning punts and you have to focus and then be ready to roll.
"I am back there seeing the way my teammates set up their blocks, where they will be to make a guy miss," said Ayers. "Once you make that first person miss you make a move and have fun with it. I try to think make the first guy miss, make one cut and go."
He will have the ability to learn from one of the best punt returners in the game in Antonio Brown, a player he has watched and admired.
"It's going to be fun," said Ayers. "He is probably going to get tired of me. I am going to try and learn everything possible from him. From punt returns, to understanding the schemes. He is a guy I am going to spend a lot of time with.
"What he has done in this league doesn't go unnoticed. He is one of the hardest working guys on the team. That is the type of people I want to surround myself with."