Film Room: One Huge Issue On Special Teams (That Will Cost The Steelers A Game)

Steelers’ Nation, you know I’m a big fan of Danny Smith. If I was dressing up for Halloween, I’d go as him. Headset, 20 packs of gum, and the raspy voice of a 30 year smoker. Special teams can’t be judged off numbers only and we’ve discussed the issues of pinning the return problems all on him. But there’s one incredibly frustrating part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ special teams. It hasn’t gotten better and in fact, may have gotten worse.

At the rate they’re going, another kick is getting blocked.

The issues showed up on Chris Boswell’s first field goal, a 34 yard conversion, Sunday night against the Detroit Lions. Check it out below. Lions overload the left side and the left end runs in untouched. Honestly, he should’ve come away with the block.

Same thing happened the week prior against the Cincinnati Bengals. Remember Smith chewing out Jesse James at the end of the half, David DeCastro forced to play peacekeeper? This is why. Allows the pressure, just as he did in the first clip.

And of course, you remember the play where the Steelers suffered the consequences. Week 3, the blocked field goal at the end of the half. This time, it was Xavier Grimble at fault.

I’m not the special teams expert but the issue is with the punch on the outside rusher. Grimble’s was too high, James’ seem to be too late. There’s no question it’s a sucky job. You have to protect the inside lane first and the defense is overloading one side. It’s not fun, it’s not easy. But you don’t have to do much to stop that outside rusher. A slight shove, get him off track, slowed down a bit. It’s that quarter second difference that’ll prevent a play like that from happening.

I get that every play is going to look close because of how the defense is aligned but these have been too close. And the Steelers will continue to be tested.

As Matthew Marczi pointed out to me, there is some good news. Stephon Tuitt is expected to be back after the bye and he usually works as the left wing on field goals. That’ll shift Vance McDonald to the right side, who hasn’t really had these problems, and hopefully the issue will dissipate.

Boswell’s been perfect this year. But the protection has not. It’s cost them before. Without change, it’s going to happen again.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Rye Stye

    I’ve thought the same thing watching the games. Too close for comfort and seems just a matter of time.

  • DirtDawg1964

    It’s just poor recognition and execution. Not that hard to figure out. Why these guys can’t is beyond me. You can’t just wave your arm at the outside guy. You have to put a hat on him.

    The inside guys, even if “free”, are going to be naturally chipped and caught up in the wash.

  • falconsaftey43

    I was literally going to ask you guys to look at this. there is another play that was supper close, I’m trying to remember which game. But the guy came off the wing and actually hit the ground after his dive before the ball was kicked. Like he could have just taken the ball from the holder he got back there so fast. This HAS to be fixed.

  • Crashcrash777

    We better be careful or “At the rate they’re going, another block is getting kicked.” 😉

  • CountryClub

    It already cost them a game. They would have beat Chicago if not for the blocked FG and then clusterF that came after it.

  • Steeler Miller

    Great breakdown Alex. I’ve noticed this over and over, seemingly every week after the Bears fiasco. I couldn’t figure out the issue. Had no idea it’s another negative to missing Tuitt.

  • Chris92021

    Grimble is flat out useless. He might be able to play tight end in a movie about football but man, he is just plain awful as a blocker. We missed Vance McDonald this weekend. I hope Grimble is the one who gets dropped when Sutton is ready to officially join the active roster.

    And I have zero faith in Danny Smith making the proper adjustments. I doubt it is all tied to Stephon Tuitt coming back. I hope you are wrong and no kicks get blocked and that it does not cost the Steelers a game. I’ve seen bad special teams cost this team too many times before and that is by far the most infuriating way to lose.

  • joewalsh

    Bottom line Jesse James is a terrible blocker. Mcdonald light years better.

  • colingrant

    The Steelers have had some great-good kickers,………… average punters…… and average special teams over the years. Among the non-kickers, Punter, Supvelda (only from being a 4th round selection),and punt returners Lois Lipps, Antonio Brown and Santonio Holmes’ come to mind. Only one kick return man, Larry Anderson of the 70’s Steelers (162 yards from 5 kickoff returns in the 1979 Super Bowl against the Rams) stands out. Aside from him, I can’t think of one dangerous, field flipping return man in the last 40 years. Recall Bobby April being a standout ST coach, but that’s it. Just good enough to win. The same can probably said for most teams however.

  • Zarbor

    Just poor. Makes you wonder is they are evening reviewing that stuff. To see this over and over again is poor coaching of the special teams. Its already cost us but it will cost us big in the playoffs.

  • Michael James

    I really appreciate everything you write, Alex, but I don’t understand your love for Danny Smith. His special teams have never been above average since he came here.
    I mean I get why one would not want to run him out of town, but he surely hasn’t done anything really “special” that would justify high praise either.

  • MC

    Danny Smith is the most incompetent coach on this team. How he still has a job after not improving the ST since we let the last guy go is beyond me.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    How this guy keeps his job every year is a mystery right up there with the caramilk secret. Put Debo in, you won’t see him doing a matador ole bitch slap at people.

  • Sup

    WE should tweet this to Tomlin this issue needs to be fixed!

  • Glenda Harter

    Ever heard of this guy named Rod Woodson? He was fairly decent as a KR/PR.

  • colingrant

    The greatest. Probably forgot a couple others as well