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NOVA STEELERS
05-17-2010, 07:02 PM
It’s a part of their history, along with the Immaculate Reception and the six Lombardi trophies and the 77 seasons of family ownership. Special teams play certainly has a part of Steelers history. The other part.
In the context of the evolution of professional football, it can be argued that special teams was born in 1969, that being the date when Los Angeles Rams coach George Allen hired Dick Vermeil to be the NFL’s first-ever full-time coach of that phase of the game. In those 40 years since, the Steelers have been as good at special teams as they were in the first 40 years of the franchise’s existence. In other words, they have been OK infrequently, bad most of the time, and awful on occasion. But never great.
For all of his abilities as a raiser of the dead, Chuck Noll was not one to place a lot of emphasis on special teams. Noll served as his own special teams coach for all but the final few seasons of his Hall of Fame career, and only briefly on the morning before a game would the players “work” on that phase under his tutelage.
Super Bowl X often is remembered fondly by Steelers fans for the John Wayne imitation Jack Lambert pulled at the expense of Cliff Harris. When Roy Gerela missed a short field goal attempt and Harris mockingly patted him on the helmet, Lambert appeared and flung the Cowboys safety to the turf. As Noll would say after the game, “Jack Lambert is the defender of all that’s right,” but Gerela’s bad day can be traced to an injury he sustained making a tackle on the opening kickoff the Cowboys returned 50 yards off a reverse.
The Steelers special teams were not prepared for this bit of trickery on the opening kickoff, and from a special teams standpoint that day things went downhill from there. Punter Bobby Walden fumbled a snap that led to a Cowboys touchdown, there were Gerela’s three missed kicks – two field goals and an extra point, and another Walden punt that almost was blocked.
Reggie Harrison did block a punt for the Steelers for a safety, but the Steelers overall performance on special teams during this Super Bowl was bad enough that with 1:22 to play, Noll had his offense run on fourth down from the Dallas 41-yard line rather than “risk” attempting to punt to pin the Cowboys offense deep in its own territory.
Noll continued to serve as his own special teams coach until the 1987 season, and it was the 1986 finale against the Kansas City Chiefs (http://www.kcchiefs.com/) that served as the last straw.
Despite holding statistical advantages in first downs, 28-8; rushing offense, 175-38; and passing offense, 340-133; the Steelers lost the game, 24-19, to finish the season at 6-10 because the Chiefs blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, blocked a field goal and returned it for a touchdown and returned a kickoff 97 yards for another touchdown. In the offseason news conference that announced Jon Kolb and Dennis Fitzgerald as the first-ever special teams coaches in franchise history, Noll said of himself, “If you hit a donkey in the head with a stick often enough, even he will get the message.”
But that historic event did little to alter the course of the relationship between the Steelers and special teams.
* In 1988, a 5-11 season, the Steelers had six punts blocked, two of which came in a loss to the Houston Oilers at Three Rivers Stadium.
* In 1993, the Steelers were in control of a game in Cleveland against the Browns, a game against a division rival at a venue where Bill Cowher had yet to win, but they lost, 28-23, because Eric Metcalf returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown with 2:05 left to play. The Browns were in striking distance in the first place because Metcalf had returned an earlier punt 91 yards for a touchdown.
That loss to the Browns helped send the Steelers to Kansas City as a Wild Card in the first round of the playoffs, and the Chiefs looked like they were going down to defeat until they blocked a punt at the two-minute warning, recovered at the Steelers 9-yard line and scored the tying touchdown on a fourth-down pass with 46 seconds left. Nick Lowery’s field goal in overtime eliminated the Steelers from those playoffs.
* Everybody remembers the 2001 AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field, when the New England Patriots (http://www.patriots.com/) pulled off an upset on the way to their first Super Bowl championship, in large part because they returned a punt for a touchdown and blocked a field goal that they returned for another touchdown in a game that ended, 24-17.
* And most recently, there was 2009, when the team’s attempted defense of its sixth Super Bowl title was derailed by the four kickoffs opponents returned for touchdowns, two of which provided the difference in losses that kept the Steelers out of the playoffs.
Following the Fitzgerald-Kolb tandem that lasted just the one season, there have been seven coaches assigned to special teams, and their tenures were marked with varying degrees of success. There was George Stewart (1989-91), John Guy (1992-93), Bobby April (1994-95), Ron Zook (1996-98), Jay Hayes (1999-2001), Kevin Spencer (2002-06) and Bob Ligashesky (2007-09).
Al Everest is No. 8.

Everest understands his job, and loves it

Al Everest is a realist. He understands. Everest is the Steelers new special teams coordinator, hired some months back because the units were sub-standard through too much of the 2009 season. In four different games, an opponent had returned a kickoff for a touchdown during a 9-7 season, and two of the losses could be traced mathematically to the points coming from those lapses by the special teams. Yes, Stefan Loganhttp://www.steelers.com/assets/nflimg/icon-article-link.gif (http://www.steelers.com/team/roster/stefan-logan/b24be644-a94c-43d3-b38e-127e1996b7ce/) set a franchise record for kickoff return yards in a season and Jeff Reedhttp://www.steelers.com/assets/nflimg/icon-article-link.gif (http://www.steelers.com/team/roster/jeff-reed/64973e34-1ccd-4c6a-9bb2-6f643692cebc/) converted 87.1 percent of his field goal attempts, but that’s not the way it works in the NFL. “I tell them this,” said Everest, “that if we were to go and try to rescue 20 hostages, and we saved 18 lives and got two killed, they’re not going to write about the 18 we saved. They’re going to write about the two we got killed. That’s the nature of our job: don’t be the problem. On the other side of that is to be a part of the solution. Turn bad into good, turn good into better, all to help the team sustain momentum to help us win football games.”
If there is such a thing as a job description for an NFL special teams coach, it would be along the lines of that last sentence. Ever since George Allen created the idea of special teams in 1969 by hiring Dick Vermeil as the first full-time assistant to coach it, special teams has been a phase of the game that’s trivialized until it becomes a problem. Sometimes referred to as one-third of the game, special teams has been given short shrift by some head coaches and over-emphasized by others, but in an NFL where games can be decided by a couple of plays and playoff prospects often come down to tiebreakers, it is a phase that cannot be ignored.
Al Everest has been coaching football as many years as Mike Tomlin has been alive, and the two men now will embark on a professional relationship that’s different from any of the others Tomlin will have with other assistants on his staff.
Special teams doesn’t get as much on-field practice time or meeting time as offense and defense, and when it comes to the chore of cutting the roster to 53, Everest understands his voice isn’t as loud as the others’. Still, he has a job to do, and nobody cares whether it’s completely fair in his world.
“As a coach, you have to make a decision on your time,” said Everest about his approach. “You can be a scheme person, multiple schemes, and those things take time. Time to teach, time to install. The other side of it is fewer schemes and more of how can I make you a better football player. To me, fundamentals and techniques are the tools of the game. If you’ve seen ‘The Karate Kid,’ it’s not much of a movie until he learns wax-on, wax-off, because he was getting his butt handed to him before that.
“All I ever want to hear from a player is, ‘Thanks for making me a better player.’ That’s why we drill, do technique work. I want them to understand the leverages of the game and to apply the leverages of the game. All of the athletes are good, and the one who plays with the best tools is going to win most of those battles. So we’re going to spend more of our time helping our players become better players. In exchange, we’re giving up some of the multiple conceptual ideas, or schemes. It’s the same thing with our meeting time.”
And in those meetings, Everest will use the time explaining how he wants the players to view the various situations that arise in every game, and what they’re going to have to be able to do if they plan on making it into the 2010 regular season.
“Kickoff and kickoff return are statement plays,” explained Everest, “because they either start the game or start the second half, which means: did you come to play, and did you come to win? One of those units will start the game, and the other will start the second half, which creates the initial momentum of how you’re going to start each half.
“Punt situation is a bad situation for us because the offense has failed, and so our job is to go into a bad situation and turn it into good. Kickoff can be about a good situation, in that we scored, and can we turn it into better? That’s how you’re creating and sustaining momentums that you need in the process of trying to win games.
“Punt return is a good situation – so don’t screw it up. The defense has succeeded, but since the opponent still has the ball we’ve got to play the situation, which means we play defense first and then try to turn it into a return if they give the ball up to us. Ball security is a big part of it, as it is in the whole game of football, so our goals in punt return and kickoff return are: first – to give the ball to the offense; two – make positive yards, which means we’re catching the ball, handling the ball, securing the ball and then not committing stupid penalties like blocking in the back because that negates positive yards; three – getting into scoring position; and four – to score.
“So when a lot of teams say, we’re going to score, to me that’s the fourth goal for those two units. Get us the ball, get positive yardage, get into position to score, and then score.”
Which leads to the other significant aspect of a special teams coach’s reality: personnel. By Everest’s estimation, there are 16 starting units on every NFL team: the five basic packages on offense and the corresponding packages the defense will use to combat those is 10, with the others being kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, field goal/extra point and field goal/extra point block.
“The key if you’re going to make it in the National Football League, and the first thing I have to convey to these young guys, is that you better be starting on four or five units and backing up on four or five other units, or you won’t be here,” said Everest. “They can start on four special teams units, but they also have to be backing up four other units – either on offense or defense.”
Another of the vagaries of special teams forces Everest to take offensive players and make them proficient in the art of defense, as has to be the case when receivers are to run down under a kick and make a tackle in space, and take defensive players and make them proficient in the nuances of offense, as must happen for a linebacker to get his hands and feet into the proper position to make the block that seals the edge without getting flagged for holding.
And Everest loves every minute of it.
“That’s what I like about my job,” said Everest. “I’ve coached every position. I’ve coordinated the offense, coordinated the defense. I’ve been a head coach. In this job, I get to coach all of the players, so I get to know them, get to know their strengths and weaknesses and get the privilege of coaching all of them. I get to speak to all of them, not just the defensive backs or the linebackers. I get to coach offense, and I get to coach defense. I get to be part of all of it. To me, it’s the best of all worlds of football.”


Lets hope his experience and scheme pays off :pray:

jnes1216
05-18-2010, 05:40 PM
Just to throw out some numbers for comparison on how Everest and the 49ers did last year.

San Fran had a kick return average of 21.8 yds (11th in NFC)
Punt return avg was 4.4 yds (last in NFC)
Opponents avg starting line on kickoffs - 34yd line (5th in NFC)
Opponents avg punt return - 8.6 yds
Average Punt 47.6 yds (1st in NFC)

Pittsburgh had a kick return average of 24 yds (4th in AFC)
Punt return avg was 8.1 yds (8th in AFC)
Opponents avg starting line on kickoffs - 40yd line (last in AFC):banging:
Opponents avg punt return - 9.8 yds
Average punt 42.7 (12th in AFC)

I'm not comparing the two teams one on one, because each team has different special team players, etc. But it looks like he did fairly well on the defensive (covering kicks)side of special teams which was one of our biggest downfalls. Lets hope he can continue that trend here in Pittsburgh. :tt02:

Dobre Shunka
05-18-2010, 10:20 PM
If anyone can improve our ST I'm all for it, even if that person is Capt Kangaroo.

BlitzburghRockCity
05-19-2010, 10:10 AM
Our ST have been so bad for so long, it's hard to remember the last time they were actually an asset to the team on a consistent basis. Last year they did get better for awhile, but overall this group needs a serious adjustment in the right direction. Logan needs to step up his return ability, and just generally the whole unit has to learn how to tackle better and shed blocks without getting taken out of the play.

Woodson_DownUnder
05-22-2010, 08:36 AM
Just to throw out some numbers for comparison on how Everest and the 49ers did last year.

San Fran had a kick return average of 21.8 yds (11th in NFC)
Punt return avg was 4.4 yds (last in NFC)
Opponents avg starting line on kickoffs - 34yd line (5th in NFC)
Opponents avg punt return - 8.6 yds
Average Punt 47.6 yds (1st in NFC)

Pittsburgh had a kick return average of 24 yds (4th in AFC)
Punt return avg was 8.1 yds (8th in AFC)
Opponents avg starting line on kickoffs - 40yd line (last in AFC):banging:
Opponents avg punt return - 9.8 yds
Average punt 42.7 (12th in AFC)

I'm not comparing the two teams one on one, because each team has different special team players, etc. But it looks like he did fairly well on the defensive (covering kicks)side of special teams which was one of our biggest downfalls. Lets hope he can continue that trend here in Pittsburgh. :tt02:

Considering it was Everest himself who brings Arnaz Battle along for the ride... check out this reference call for Battle from ex-Niners HC, Mike Nolan.

http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/49ers/archives/2010/03/new-free-agency.html

jnes1216
05-22-2010, 01:52 PM
any comparison to Ward would be a compliment. just watched some of his highlights. seems to be a nice pick up. 6'1 208 pretty solid dude. great football last name, makes you want to put in a mouthpiece and go cover kicks! lol

Stlrs4Life
05-25-2010, 12:23 AM
Good read.

jnes1216
05-25-2010, 05:11 PM
Derrick Doggett could be another nice find from the CFL, (like Stefan Logan), tweener LB who had 27 special teams tackles in 15 games.