The Pittsburgh Steelers fired special teams coach Al Everest on Thursday and replaced him with assistant special teams coach Amos Jones. While we don\’t know the real reason as to why Everest was let go, we can only assume that it might have been performance related until we hear otherwise.
Everest was hired by the Steelers after Bob Ligashesky was fired following the 2009 season that saw the Steelers rank 23rd in punt return average allowed (9.8) and 27th in kickoff return average allowed (24.3). That season also saw the Steelers allow an NFL-high four kickoff return touchdowns in a five-game span.
In 2010, the first season for Everest in Pittsburgh, the Steelers ranked last in the league in punt return average (6.1) and 13th in kickoff return average (23.5). On the other side, the special teams units ranked 18th in punt return average allowed (9.2) and 5th in kickoff return average allowed (20.0).
Last season the Steelers ranked 13th in the league in punt return average (10.5) and 8th in kickoff return average (25.1). On the other side the special teams units ranked 12th in punt return average allowed (8.4) and 16th in kickoff return average allowed (23.7).
Regardless of the past two seasons, Everest seemed set to coach a 3rd season, but through the first two preseason games, the Steelers special teams units ranked 27th in punt return average (14.5) and 29th in kick return average (4.0). As far as the defending punts and kickoffs in the first two preseason games, the Steelers ranked 18th in punt return average allowed (8.5) and 22nd in kickoff return average allowed (26.3).
Head coach Mike Tomlin addressed special teams in his post game press conference following the Sunday night win over the Indianapolis Colts. “Created splash in the special teams game with a blocked punt, but I didn\’t like our return game,” said Tomlin “I thought our return game was below the line. We\’ve got to get better in that area.”
A bright spot that Tomlin mentioned from Sunday night was the punt block by linebacker Mortty Ivy, but not mentioned was the blocked field goal on the Steelers final drive that luckily still managed to flutter barely over the crossbar to give the Steelers the win.
On the block, two Colts players leapfrogged over David DeCastro and Ryan Lee to get in position to block the kick. Apparently that move is still legal and I remember Trent Cole of the Philadelphia Eagles doing the same thing against the New York Giants several years ago to get a block.
Like I said in the opening paragraph, we don\’t know for sure if the firing of Everest was performance based or not, but special teams certainly haven\’t been all around great in all areas since he was hired. It is still preseason though, and that usually means that several players are being tried out in several different spots to see where they fit. Stats are pretty much worthless during these games as they are mostly used to judge individual performances.
In a short statement following the move, Tomlin would only say that they have decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of the special teams. That new direction is now Jones, who just so happened to be on the same coaching staff with Tomlin at the University of Cincinnati for two seasons. Jones was hired by Tomlin to be the assistant when he was named head coach back in 2007.
Perhaps more will leak out to as the real reason Everest was terminated, but in the long run it really doesn\’t matter at this point. What does matter is that Jones has two more preseason games to get the return game better.