Steelers Need A Punt Returner To Emerge During Training Camp

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will start this year opposite Antonio Brown now that Mike Wallace has left for the greener pastures of Miami and hopefully the Pittsburgh Steelers won\’t have to use either of the two very much as returners in an effort to save some wear and tear on them.

The Steelers signed running back LaRod Stephens-Howling during the free-agent signing period, and he will more than likely be the one returning kickoffs should he ultimately make the final 53 man roster out of training camp.

When it comes to candidates to return punts, however, the Steelers don\’t really seem to have many players on the roster with much experience in that area. Rookie cornerback Terry Hawthorne returned a total of eight punts for 46 yards during his college career while rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton returned only three punts during his four years at Oregon State.

Rookie wide receiver Justin Brown, on the other hand, returned 71 punts for 637 yards while in college, so he could be the primary candidate if he can make the final cut.

Outside of Reggie Dunn mastering the art and making the team as a return specialist, the only other real candidate who could possibly relieve Antonio Brown of the job is wide receiver David Gilreath, as he returned both kickoffs and punts at Wisconsin and was pretty decent at doing both. In order for Gilreath to make the final 53 man roster; however, it would likely mean that veteran wide receiver Plaxico Burress won\’t.

Should the responsibility ultimately fall back on the shoulders of Antonio Brown, we\’ll all just have to cross our fingers and hope that he stays away from the big hit. Sure, he can get injured just as easy catching balls in the Steelers offense, but limiting the amount of total hits that he takes during a game is always advisable if other options exist.

  • VaDave

    AB had taken some wicked shots the last couple of years. At his size, I’m amazed he’s still walking. Best he stays off the special teams.

  • steeltown

    It is quite possible that Gilreath or J.Brown win a spot on the roster as the #5 or #6 WR and punt returner if either of them shines in preseason. Also, I am not against Sanders returning punts this season, why not get the most out of him, he’s fast and has good short area quickness and has some experience there from college.. or maybe even Wheaton impresses in this area during camp, a lot of possibilities

  • Bradys_Dad

    Anyone who has ever seen Reggie Dunn run should hope and pray that he makes the team as a return specialist. I’d put my $ on Reggie vs. Wallace in a race every day.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I am not worried about a guy stepping up in this area…a lot of guys to choose from….someone WILL SHINE!!!

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Let’s put Crazy Glue on Dunn’s hands. Solved!

    In all seriousness, I’d love it to be Justin Brown, only because that would also mean he’s shown real potential as a developing receiver in training camp. Anyone else will feel like “Well, SOMEONE has to do it!”

  • gene mann

    what dunn issue i know he a great KR

  • StrengthOfVictory

    The word out of OTAs and rookie camps was that Dunn was having trouble catching/securing the ball.

  • gene mann

    i guess that why all KR dont always make good PR

  • dgh57

    I agree, not a good idea to have your #1 receiver returning punts and risking injury.

  • steeltown

    Yea and the guy wondered why he went undrafted. He doesn’t have much experience at WR and he doesn’t return punts either so basically he’s a fast guy that returns kickoffs and that’s it. Well, with only 53men on a roster and 46 active on game day, its easy to see why many passed on him

    He basically has to not only show he can secure and return punts but also play WR

    Personally I don’t want to cringe every time we receive a punt this yr, waiting for the kid to whiff on one

  • Christopher Wilkes

    This is Antonio Brown’s job. It has to be if we want any production out of the punt return game, even though his stats weren’t very good in that dept. last year. I’m heavily rooting against Gilreath making this team, especially if LaRod is used as a KR only. If Gilreath does make the team, then mark my word he will fumble at a pivotal point returning a punt and be out of a job the next week.

  • JohnnyV1

    Rod Woodson returned punts well into his career, and he was also pretty good at his day job (Probowl CB). Let’s not lose sleep if it’s Brown returning punts, he’s a football player. Woodson’s knee injury came in a non-contact, open-field attempt to try and tackle Barry Sanders.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I was at that game when Woodson blew his knee out. Still amazed he came back to play in the SB. I agree with you. Why handicap the team in order to try and prevent an injury.

  • Jeff

    Brown will probably end up being the best punt returner on the team, so I’d say go with him…. I’m not concerned about him getting hurt..

  • charles

    Very high on Dunn, he could add a dimension on offense as well possible catching a short pass out of the backfield or even lining up in the slot. You are right this cat is dynamic!

  • Douglas Andrews

    It would be nice if Dunn could become a reliable return specialist. With that kinda speed 4.2 40 at least we would have a threat as a PR/KR, but if he’s not gonna be able to become that dual threat returner we need then i say go with Sanders or Wheaton.

  • steeltown

    Agreed… or even Stephens-Howling

  • Douglas Andrews

    What is great this year is we have lots of options so one of these guys is gonna emerge. In the few times i have seen Sanders return punts he looks like a good candidate…catches the ball cleanly has pretty good vision along with speed/quickness to put pressure on the other teams . Why not get the most out of him bcause he may only be here for this season.

  • steeltown

    Exactly, I have been saying that same thing for weeks now, he returned punts in college, we might as well use him to the fullest this season