Often times special teams units get just that - one play. Who makes the play, or who blows the assignment could be the difference maker in a win or a loss. Talk about pressure.
Playing special teams, whether its a kicking unit or a receiving unit, is not for everyone. Players are often drafted rather than going undrafted due to their ability to also play special teams.
One of the Steelers best special teams players in 2013 was Antwon Blake, and if anyone knows what kind of work ethic and drive are needed to succeed in that area, it would be Blake.
"To play special teams you have to have a high motor and a great work ethic," Blake told Steelers.com. "Every special teams play is normally just one play. You have to go your hardest one play at a time. The people that do that successfully are the ones that make an instant impact."
Blake is the perfect example of a player that might not fit into the base defense plans with the first team, but can make a difference on special teams. So much so, it is probably keeping him a roster spot on the 53 man roster.
While the NFL is trying to remove certain special teams plays from the game by making rule changes to decrease injuries, the plays that are still expected to be made can be extremely important to the result of the game. One punt return for a touchdown, a punt blocked or even the rare kickoff return can completely change the complexion of the game for the good or bad.
The Steelers have been hovering around the mediocre category in terms of special teams recently. Above average in some areas, and well below the line in others. If the Steelers consider themselves contenders in 2014, then special teams has to be an emphasis heading into training camp, and a strength heading into the regular season.
Special teams might often be forgotten, but that doesn't decrease it's significance to the outcome of games and overall the season.