Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Steelers Season Review: Special Teams

This will be a four-part series of the Steelers breakdown that I put together for an analysis of the Steelers 2009 season. The installments will be looking at the offense, the defense, special teams and finally we will take a look back at every game from this season with my thoughts and the links to the game recaps. Some parts, such as the offense and defense, will be a little bit longer, other parts, such as the special teams, will be shorter because lets face it, who really wants to talk about special teams. But that is neither here nor there. Here We Go.

The Steelers season in a little more than a few weeks over so I figured it was a better time than ever to give a little season recap and see where we go from here into the offseason, draft, camp and the 2010-2011 season.

In case you have been in a cave for the past five months the Steelers finished the season 9-7 and missed out on the playoffs because of a poor conference record and tiebreakers not falling their way. The Steelers started out poorly, a 1-2 start, but bounced back and finished the first half of the season 6-2.

The second half of the season did not go as well as you might have thought. After going 6-2 with big victories over some good teams the Steelers lost five straight. It was not like they lost five straight to the best teams in the league, they lost five straight to Bengals, Chiefs, Ravens, Raiders and Browns. What a shot in the balls.

The Steelers finished up the season strong with three straight wins over Green Bay, Baltimore and Miami. Just think if the Steelers win one out of the three games against the Chiefs, Raiders or Browns then we still might be watching the Steelers now. That is neither here nor there. The middle part of the season was a disappointment to say the least. It hurts not to make the playoffs, but go check out the last ten years of Steelers football, we have been pretty good.

After the jump is the first part of the segment of recaps which includes a look at the Steelers special teams and how they were a huge letdown this season after being very good in the Super Bowl season of 2008-09.



KICKING

Jeff Reed. When you think of that name you mainly think of someone that would rather bash in mailboxes and fight with police than go and make kicks on Sunday, but Jeff Reed has been nothing less than cash money in his time with the Steelers. Sure there will be some bad games and missed kicks such as was suffered in Chicago, but for the most part he is one of the best kickers in the league, kicking in one of the toughest venues in the NFL.

Jeff Reed finished the season ranked sixth in the league with 27 field goals made and seventh in the league in points with 122. Reed was a perfect 41-for-41 on extra points and 87% (27-of-31) on his field goal attempts. For his career Reed knocks down 83% of his field goals so when people get up in arms and talk about how bad he was, you can’t really talk about that.

The one downfall, which was in a game where he missed two field goals, was the Chicago game where Reed had back to back chances to give the Steelers the lead. He couldn’t. The two misses were half of his miss total for the season and if he hits one of them they probably win that game. Let me ask you this? How many games has Jeff Reed won for us? Too many to count. How many times has Jeff bailed out the offense when they couldn’t punch it in the red zone? Too many times.

The one beef that I have with Jeff Reed is the distance he can get on his kickoffs. Jeff Reed never can get the ball into the end zone and on most kicks he can only get the ball down to the seven or eight yard line. I don’t know how much you are able to work on this but this is a problem that needs to get fixed, quickly. Other than that I think we need to keep Jeff, franchise tag or transition tag if you have to, but keep him.

PUNTING

Daniel Sepulveda was back at the helm for the Steelers in the punt formation and it was a good thing to see. While his stats are not eye popping it is good when you don’t hear your punters named called. He is one of those guys that if you didn’t hear his name then it was a good thing.

Although Sepulveda only averaged 42.7 yards per punt, good for 18th in the league, he ranked eighth in the league in punts inside the twenty yard line and forced 18 fair catches. Sepulveda only had 33 of his 72 punts returned this season which was the 10th in the league. Sure the stats were not flashy or top five, but he was able to save the horrid coverage team from having to cover half of his punts. Thank God. Coming off an ACL tear Sepulveda got a standing ovation for his first punt in the preseason, and while I am sure he was still suffering from some of those after affects so we can’t truly judge his leg strength on what we saw this year.

What we did see was Sepulveda be consistent and not make the huge shank punt that can kill games for teams. What do you expect out of players? You should expect them to be good and consistent and that is what Sepulveda was this season.

KICK AND PUNT COVERAGE

Talk about a train wreck. The Steelers were among the best in the league in 2008-09 at covering kicks and everything just sort of went to the wayside this season. There is nothing bigger than scoring a big touchdown then pinning a team deep with great coverage. What were most of the kickoffs like after the Steelers scored a big touchdown? Holding your breath and watching Percy Harvin take it 87-yards to the house. Vomit.

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