Perimeter the problem in last year's breakdowns
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Al Everest has been a special teams coach in the NFL long enough to quickly identify a problem.

Actually, you don't have to be a veteran coach of 13 seasons to figure out that the Steelers' kickoff coverage unit was putrid a season ago.

[IMGR][/IMGR]The Steelers allowed a league-high four kickoff returns for touchdowns within a span of five games, two of which directly cost them a chance at victory - an 18-12 loss to Cincinnati and a 27-24 overtime defeat to Kansas City a week later.

Without even looking at the film, Everest, hired in January to replace Bob Ligashesky, knew exactly where the breakdown was.

"Kickoff touchdowns are all about the perimeter," Everest said. "That's not singling out guys, but that's it."

What Everest alluded to is the two far players on each side of the kickoff coverage unit or what he calls the perimeter guys.

Their job is to squeeze the play to the inside, make the majority of tackles and, most importantly, stop the big play.

That did not happen last year.

All four of the touchdowns allowed a season ago - by Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs, Minnesota's Percy Harvin, Cincinnati's Bernard Scott and Kansas City's Jamaal Charles - came because of breakdowns with one of the four perimeter guys.

"It was bad, and I was out there for every last one of them," Steelers special-teamer Stefan Logan said. "Coach Everest came in this year and is making sure that is not going to happen."

There have been a few personnel changes but not an abundant amount.

Still on the perimeter are Logan, William Gay and sometimes Ike Taylor with newcomers Anthony Madison and Keenan Lewis.

Madison was re-signed in early December after all four kickoff return scores had occurred.

"I would say 99 percent of this game is about knowing what to do and knowing where to be," Madison said. "That was part of the problem last year that people were in the wrong position."

There were 18 kickoff returns for touchdowns in the NFL last year. The Steelers were responsible for more than 20 percent of those.

In this season's first preseason game against the Lions, the coverage was better. The Lions averaged 20 yards per return with a long run of 33.

"We are going to be better this year," Everest said. "We are not trying to be better. We are going to be better."