Paul Dehner Jr. of The Cincinnati Enquirer recently shared how special teams has been a “deciding factor” in many recent games between the Steelers and the Bengals.
Pittsburgh’s play on special teams proved to be quite their “Achilles heel” against Cincinnati as recently as last year, and a missed Shaun Suisham extra point in their Week 16 loss to the Bengals could have ultimately sent the Steelers to postseason in 2012.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, their special teams play has continued to resemble anything but “competent” since Danny Smith took over for Amos Jones as the special teams coach earlier this spring.
During preseason play, Pittsburgh’s special teams allowed a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and 53 punt return yards to Skye Dawson in Week 2 against Washington. The team was so ineffective on those particular units that they released two punters, and then signed Antwon Blake to chip in on kickoff and punt return coverage.
The Steelers’ special teams problems only continued last week against Tennessee. Pittsburgh committed two penalties on their coverage units, and they allowed a punt return of 27 yards to Darius Reynaud which led to the Titans’ game-clinching field goal in the fourth quarter!
The worst thing of all however happened before the game even started when the usually-reliable Suisham sustained a hamstring injury. Although Suisham gutted it out for two kickoffs and an extra point, his status for tomorrow’s game is still uncertain. If he sits then the Steelers will have to rely on veteran Shayne Graham to pick up the slack in the kicking game.
With their coverage units plagued by inconsistent play and their starting kicker still a question mark from a health perspective, I hope that tomorrow’s game does not come down to special teams between the Steelers and the Bengals. If it does though, then Cincinnati should be posting a tally mark in their “win” column at the end of the night.
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