Steelers Plan On Handling Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill ‘Very Thoughtfully’ On Sunday

As we start to turn more of our attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers upcoming Divisional Playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, most of us are probably already worrying quite a bit about their fabulous rookie wide receiver Tyreek Hill as the West Alabama product enters the postseason having caught 61 passes for 593 yards and 6 touchdowns during the regular season. While Hill’s 2016 receiving stats might be enough to worry about, the fact that he’s quickly established as one on the league’s top return specialists is even scarier and especially when it comes to the Steelers and how they’ve played so far this season on special teams.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked about Hill during his weekly Tuesday press conference.

“Hill’s contributions to this team has evolved since we played them,” Tomlin started. “The last time we played them, we talked about his dynamics in the return game, be it punts and kicks, and the fact that he was kind of a gadget guy on offense. Now, he is very much a part of their routine offensive attack. He plays wide receiver, he plays running back, he is an impactful guy. His speed and bursts are unique. He needs no endorsement from me. His splash play reel is all the endorsement that he needs.”

During the regular season, Hill’s 15.7 punt return average led the league as he returned 39 punts for 592 yards and 2 touchdowns. While he didn’t have enough kickoff returns to qualify, Hill’s 27.4 yard average per return would have been the third-best in the league this season. Oh, and one of those 14 kickoffs that he returned went for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Because Hill is such a dangerous returner, Tomlin was asked Tuesday how he plans to go about handling him on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

“Very thoughtfully. And it’s easier said than done,” Tomlin said. “You saw what trying to directional kick did to us a couple weeks ago. We put the ball out of bounds twice. We gave them the ball on the 40 [yard line]. So, we have to tread lightly as we prepare and understand that our ability to minimize his touches in that area aides us, but we don’t want to give them anything. And we gave our opponent some field position a couple weeks ago by kicking the ball out of bounds a couple of times. Not interested in that.”

While Hill has been solid most of the season when it comes to him returning both punts and kickoffs, Tomlin was quick to point out that he’s surrounded by a solid and well-coached special teams unit.

“Taking nothing away from Tyreek Hill, he’s dynamic, but you have to acknowledge as a special teams group they [the Chiefs] are dynamic,” Tomlin said. “They were dynamic when they had Black Mamba (De’Anthony Thomas) back there returning kicks. Their special teams coordinator [Dave Toub] is interviewing for head coaching jobs. They’ll let you know how dynamic they are as a special teams group. So, it’s not a one-man gang, that one-man gang being Tyreek Hill. We respect their special teams group, and it’s been a catalyst for them. And that’s one of the reasons, significant reasons, why they are a 12-4 outfit.”

You probably don’t need me to remind you just how bad the Steelers punt and kickoff coverage units have been this season, but in case you do, here are the numbers. The Steelers punt coverage team allowed an average of 9.6 yards per return and only six other NFL teams had a higher number. As for kickoffs, the Steelers coverage unit allowed an average of 24.7 yards per return and only the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings were worse when it comes to that stat.

The Steelers coverage units have been without the services of several key players for most of the season as not only did lose perhaps their two best players for the season due to injuries in linebacker Steven Johnson and safety Shamarko Thomas, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey also sat out six regular season games with a foot injury. If that’s not enough, core special team players, linebackers Anthony Chickillo (ankle) and Vince Williams (shoulder) are both currently dealing with injuries as well.

When given the opportunity to kickoff Sunday against the Chiefs, hopefully weather conditions will allow Steelers kicker Chris Boswell the opportunity to kick the football out of the back of end zone to prevent Hill from fielding it. As for Steelers punter Jordan Berry, here’s to hoping his directional kicking game is on point Sunday in addition to him not having to see the field very much.

Hill is certainly a huge x-factor for the Chiefs heading into Sunday’s game both as a wide receiver and return-man. When the Steelers and Chiefs played each other back in Week 4, Hill had 5 receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown in the passing game in addition to one rush for -2 yards. He also returned two punts for 20 yards with a long of 14 yards and returned two kickoffs for 54 yards with a long of 33 yards. In short, the Steelers didn’t allow Hill to make any game-changing plays the last time they played the Chiefs and now they have to make sure to repeat that performance once more on Sunday. It will be a tough task for sure and certainly one worth worrying about if you’re a fan of the team.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    If I were Tomlin I would make sure Hill never touched a kick off or punt. And I would have safety help over the top of him at all times when he’s on offense. Make somebody else beat you.

  • WilliamSekinger

    What does it say about our ST units when most of Steeler nation is just hoping the ST units don’t hurt us too much during this game? SMH

  • pittfan

    THIS is the kind of impact player we were hoping to have in…..(should I say it?) Dri Archer.

  • Kevin artis

    On punts just kick it out of bounds and on kickoff we hope Boswell can put it out the end zone.

  • Ross McCorkle

    and chris rainey back in the day

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Agreed about not kicking to him. I don’t think we should double him the whole game. Maybe give different looks.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Should have used Dri more as a receiver. IMO.

  • Boswell has not been able to kick it out of the endzone consistently enough, I might prefer to squib kick it to one of the wedge guys and concede starting position as opposed to the alternative. As for punting, I definitely kick it out of bounds. Unless a drive stalls near mid field, then I try for a hang time punt and force a fair catch inside the 20. Hill is a rookie playing in his first playoff game, if you get bodies around him while he’s trying to make a fair catch, maybe he cracks under the pressure and drops it.

  • Like Kelse, Maclin or Ware? I wouldn’t worry too much about Hill as a pass catcher, he’s a one trick pony on offense.

  • Big White

    Translation: There will be starters added to some special teams units vs the Chiefs. My guess is you’ll see Shazier, Davis and Mitchell added to coverage squads. Jarvis already there and had a solid tackle last week. Plus, may we see Robert Golden back this week??

  • 2winz

    If our offense plays like it did last week, punting the ball won’t be a concern.

  • Zarbor

    I agree with the Kickoff and Punts. He should not touch the ball. Unfortunately I’m not liking our kicking game as of late. Not too worried about him on offense IF our defense doesn’t blow assignments. Very concerned about Hill on special teams.

  • taztroy43

    Is this the guy that beat up his pregnant gf and got kicked from Oregon state or Oklahoma state? If it’s this guy he is a POS!

  • Applebite

    So….when does he deserve redemption? Because it’s not as if the Steelers never had a player with a questionable past.

  • Applebite

    “Very thoughtfully” as in, kick the ball out the back end of the end zone or away from Hill….

  • SeventhHeavan

    This is a very dangerous little dude that can turn a game around with one carry or return. Don’t kid yourself. They will try to use him on offense and they need to stop him…

  • Rusted Out

    Yea Dri was dope! He could score from anywhere on the field. The coaches were so stupid not to utilize his immense speed, strength, and size. Oh, wait he’s still on his couch at home. Let’s bring him back in! What a talent!

  • smh, Just kick it out of bounds for crying out loud. If we let that guy field a return, Tomlin will have to be as thoughtful as he was against Jacoby Jones and the Ravens

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I do agree with you on this point 100%.

    Boswell only gets touchbacks on 61% of his kickoffs. And it’s gonna be 34 degrees in K.C. on Sunday (with possible rain/snow). I would squib kick all day long. Give them the ball at the 30-35.

    As far as punting, I wouldn’t even try to force a fair catch. Out of bounds. Out of bounds. Out of bounds. Do not let Hill touch that ball.

  • I.P. Freeley

    Now would be a great time to put a little thought into Special Teams in general.

    It is apparent that we lack either the talent, or the inclination to improve in that area. Devin Hester, er Hill is going to murder us if we can’t execute better Sunday.

    Coach ’em up Danny, earn your job.

  • I.P. Freeley

    Here Here!

  • I.P. Freeley

    Bos’s squibbs have been meh at best. But this may be the least bad of the available options. . .

  • The kick return units have been miserable all year. The kick coverage units were okay to start the year. It’s only really been the past few weeks that they have been bad while core teamers have been hurt. I still wouldn’t kick to him, though.

    But the punt coverage teams haven’t been bad. A few times this year Berry out kicked them, but other than that, they have been solid enough. I still don’t punt to him unless its a scenario like I mentioned above.

  • NW86

    But how do you make sure he never touches it on kickoffs? Boswell isn’t going to be able to kick it out of the endzone in the cold weather, and kicking it out of bounds would give them the ball on the 40 every time.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx


  • Jim Foles

    Say Ayers… Where is Ayers?

  • capehouse

    Hill returned a punt 78 yards for a TD against us earlier in the year when Berry punted the ball right to him, but it was called back for a block in the back. Berry punted the ball out of bounds after that, and I expect the same strategy this Sunday. It would be a major blunder to do it any other way against an All-Pro returner who’s scored 12 TDs this year.

  • Mark

    Special Teams Game Plan
    1. Kick the ball out of the endzone on kickoffs
    2. If unable to kick out of endzone, squib kick on the ground around 30 to 20 yard (rather Alex beat us with several plays than Tyrek with one)
    3. Punt the ball towards the sidelines, even out of bounds (nothing in the middle of the field)
    4. Go for the football, Tyrek is focused on making a play that he carries the football loosely.

  • Mark

    James and Bud need to have their head on a swivel for the jet sweep, Forcing him back to Timmons or Shazier with the Dline giving chase is needed.

  • Mark

    Great point, Golden, Williams, Chick, Jarvis, take Matakevich off the special teams, it’s like watching a rock roll up hill. Dude is terribly slow

  • SilverSteel

    But, Matakevich gets through blocks and positions himself well to be a solid ST player. Maybe not the first up the field, but you need guys behind them too. And, he is as solid of a tackler as they come.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    And the Steelers ST coaching carousel continues. I wonder why they can’t find someone who can prevent this part of the game from being a weakness.