Since it ended up being a pretty significant topic in the previous game, I suppose I should start off by noting that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ field goal kicking unit performed much better than they did against the Colts, or really than they have much of the season.
Then again, the Titans’ special teams unit didn’t seem to put a whole lot of effort into trying to block the kicks, either.
Good thing the Steelers didn’t come in with the same mindset. On the first extra point the Titans attempted, Cameron Heyward bowled over the long snapper flat onto his back and dove forward, though he didn’t come particularly close to blocking it.
Daniel McCullers, by the way, was on that unit. Both Heyward and McCullers have blocked a kick for the Steelers before.
After that initial extra point, the Titans’ ensuing kickoff only reached the four, prompting Terrell Watson to run it out. He showed no hesitation, simply plowing northward to get what he could, reaching the 25-yard line.
On the same drive on which the Titans converted on fourth and one, extending the drive, they still came up empty-handed thanks to T.J. Watt, who joined the ranks of Heyward and McCullers as Steelers who have blocked a kick.
The Steelers kept their starters on the field for this attempt, with the addition of McCullers as the nose tackle. The whole left side did a good job of collapsing the protection, Watt flanked by Bud Dupree and Sean Davis.
Jordan Berry’s first punt of the game was a rough one, bouncing out of bounds at the 29-yard line after 40 yards. But Darrius Heyward-Bey struggled to clear a pair of jammers toward that side of the field anyway. J.J. Wilcox was the opposite gunner.
The Steelers rushed eight on their first punt return, trying to scheme Roosevelt Nix free up the middle, but he was chopped down by the upback. Artie Burns had one of his best reps so far as a jammer, helping to allow a short return by Antonio Brown.
A Brian Allen sighting! Yeah, I get excited about that. He was the left gunner opposite Heyward-Bey on the next punt. They both got down the field on a 59-yarder that the former downed at the four-yard line. Great punt, and play, all around.
The Titans did get a free runner around Stephon Tuitt on a later field goal. They lined six up to that side, so Tuitt had to protect the interior of the field, and they got the kick off with a few feet to spare.
Burns, paired with Heyward-Bey as vice on the next Titans punt, again did a good job as a jammer. Perhaps he can evolve into a solid player in that role. And perhaps it will improve his physicality…
On the field goal to end the half, the Titans sent two players right into Alejandro Villanueva, driving him back. The interior defender got about a foot away from making a Margus Hunt-like block. You know, scratch what I said earlier about this unit being better. They did the same thing in the third quarter.
Nix did a great job of avoiding the lead blocker on the ensuing kickoff, tripping up the returner at the 14-yard line. Allen got some work on kick coverage in the second half.
One of Chris Boswell’s second-half kickoffs was just excellent. It bounced and died inside the five-yard line, forcing a return. Tyler Matakevich made the tackle at the 14-yard line, one of three for him on the day, all on kick returns.
Brown’s two best punts of the season have come when the Steelers used stacked jammers on the right side with Burns and Heyward-Bey. This one went for 16 in the fourth quarter and could have been deadlier if he didn’t run into a teammate.