The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers head into their bye week with a 2-4 record, but are coming off an impressive road win on the West Coast. Since the bye week is often a great time to reflect on what the Steelers are doing well and where they need to improve, this is exactly what we’re going to do. In the final of this week’s three installments of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take at some of the Pittsburgh Steelers numbers on special teams for the 2019 season. Each statistic is broken down into a “do” or “don’t.” The “do’s” are areas where the Steelers need to keep up the good work, while the “don’ts” are areas where they need to improve.
Don’t look now, but Chris Boswell has been in his 2017 form and has yet to miss a kick of either type through the first six weeks of the season. Boswell is 11 of 11 kicking field goals with a long of 49 yards, and he is 12 of 12 in point after attempts. There are only three teams which have not missed either a field goal or extra point: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. The last time a Steelers kicker was perfect through the first six games was Shaun Suisham in 2013.
The Steelers are ranked 30th in the NFL with only 17.0 yards per kickoff return. With only eight returns on the season, the Steelers longest has been 26 yards. With statistics such as these, if the ball is kicked in the end zone they should just be wise and take a knee. But knowing the Steelers are struggling returning the ball, look for more teams to do as Baltimore did and kick the ball high in short and force the team to make a good return.
The other aspect of the kicking game has been another positive for the Steelers in 2019. Jordan Barry has the best average of his career at 47.12 yards per punt which is currently 10th in the NFL. The Steelers have never had a punting average through six games better than what Berry has going back to 1940. They also have never finished a season over the same period with such an average.
Although kickoff returns have been a concern, punt returns have not fared much better. In the six times the Steelers have returned a punt in 2019, they have only averaged 6.5 yards which ranks 20th in the NFL. Additionally, their best return has only been 13 yards. Perhaps rookie Diontae Johnson will get more attempts since his only return netted 11 yards.
Not only have the Steelers not returned punts all that well, they have not covered them to a high standard either. Averaging 9.7 yards per return, the Steelers are currently ranked 27th in the NFL in average yards per return. Although they have given up 107 yards on 11 returns, the Steelers have kept teams from breaking any punt returns for a touchdown. Also, 15 of Jordan Berry’s punts did not have a return attempted.
The Steelers are currently ranked 19th in the NFL in 22.5 yards given up per kickoff return. The Steelers haven’r done that bad on this unit, it is something that should not be taken for granted. With the exception of the 46 yard return against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers have not allowed another return of 30 yards or more.
So these are some of the numbers outlining the Steelers special teams through the first six weeks of 2019. Can the Steelers keep up their strong kicking game? Will the coverage and return teams continue to improve? Please leave your answers in the comments below!