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Steelers special teams a bright spot after dismal preseason

Steelers coverage units in particular have fared well through the first three games of the regular season, and punter Zoltan Mesko has some of the better statistics for his position in the NFL.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers kick and return teams were a miserable part of a forgettable preseason.

While the team continued its losing ways from a winless preseason into an 0-3 start to the regular season, the special teams units found themselves making a complete 180.

Steel City Insider publisher Jim Wexell pointed out the Steelers held ace return man Devin Hester of the Bears to 26 kickoff return yards and two fair catches on punts. Hester set a Bears franchise record with 249 kickoff return yards against Minnesota in Week 2.

Granted, it was rainy in Chicago when the Bears beat the Vikings - the Steelers' Week 4 opponents - making it hard for Blair Walsh to put it through the back of the end zone, but results are results.

The Steelers saw muffed returns, blocked punts and penalties in each phase of the coverage and return games, but first-year Danny Smith noted his feeling the problem may have been with the players - players who are no longer with the team.

Smith is getting outstanding special teams contributions from rookies Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas. Jones now starts, and Thomas has been the team's nickel back for most of their first three games. It appears as if Thomas will return to back-up safety duties when Cortez Allen comes back to the line-up - moving William Gay back to the nickel spot. But the impact being made on special teams is helping the Steelers remain competitive.

It may be a small (non) victory, but the Steelers have been within one score in the fourth quarter of each of their three losses. While that's not all on the special teams, they are doing their part to keep games competitive. Their punt coverage team as well as punter Zoltan Mesko are 13th in the NFL with a net of 43 yards. That's pretty solid, considering they're tied for eighth in the league with 18 punts through three games. Mesko is second in the NFL with nine punts inside the 20 and tied for 10th with five returns.

Maybe it was the players who are no longer with the team.

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