So much has been made about what Chris Rainey, the Pittsburgh Steelers fifth round draft pick, can add on offense in his rookie season. It is not hard to see new offensive coordinator Todd Haley using him much like he used Dexter McCluster in Kansas City.
Rainey can be used as a pass catching running back out of the backfield and split out as wide receiver should the need arise. His name has been mentioned several times over the last four weeks as a player that has stood out in practices, mostly because of his speed.
One thing that has not been given a lot of attention since the Florida product was drafted back in April, is what Rainey brings to the table on special teams. During his career at Florida Rainey blocked six punts, a school and conference record. He also amassed 235 yards on 26 punt returns, two of which went for touchdowns, and another 454 yards on 18 kickoff returns.
On the Thursday edition of Steelers Live at 4, Bob Labriola talked to special teams coach Al Everest and asked him about the six punt blocks by Rainey, and how he managed to pull them off. “First of all he is extremely quick. I mean he is a very competitive kid,” said Everest. “He\’s got great acceleration. Its important to him. He\’s already excited about it.” Without being asked, Everest continued on with his plans for Rainey. “We\’re talking about it and we\’re going to look at him on defensive field goal. We\’re going to look at him in punt situations as a returner and some block situations as well to try to utilize what he does best, and he is good at it.”
Everest went on to say that it will be even tougher for teams to scheme against Rainey on punt blocks if he has another player like Rainey also excel in that area. “If you got two of them, and I think we do if Curtis Brown comes along or Marquis Maze,” said Everest. Some of these guys that give us a couple, its hard for them to figure out what your trying to do with two guys, but we\’ll scheme with one.” Everest meant in his remarks that he has no hesitations in just scheming with Rainey alone should another player not surface with the same capabilities.
While Emmanuel Sanders looks likely to open up as the Steelers kick and punt returner when the team reports for training camp in Latrobe, his spot is not written in stone. Sanders admitted as much in a recent interview on 93.7 The Fan. It is unknown right now where Rainey ranks in the pecking order as far as return duties go, but it certainly sounds like he will be on the punt return team regardless.