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Miles Boykin’s great play in Week 18 may have brought him to Pittsburgh

Boykin was a standout on special teams in the Ravens’ overtime loss to the Steelers.

NFL: DEC 26 Ravens at Bengals Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers didn’t just pick up Miles Boykin, they spent a waiver claim to get the rights to the former Baltimore Raven. In doing so they committed to paying him just over $2.5 million dollars, which is more than they paid Terrell Edmunds to return to the team.

That’s a pretty serious investment for a player who caught one pass for 6 yards in 2022.

K.T. Smith already broke down his play at wide receiver, and what value he may bring to the team in the passing game, so I won’t cover that.

What I want to look at is the final game of the 2022 regular season, when the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime to earn a playoff berth in Ben Roethlisberger’s final season. In that game Boykin didn’t play a single snap on offense, but he was an impactful force for the Ravens on special teams.

Steelers at Ravens, 1st quarter, 15:00

Miles Boykin is second from the bottom of the screen for the Ravens.

Boykin’s job on kickoffs is getting downfield quick and forcing the returner to run to the middle of the field. You can see Ray-Ray McCloud take a step to Boykin’s side before cutting into the middle through a small gap in the coverage. Boykin was in the right spot and has the physicality to counter blockers and take away outside returns. He was effective in that role all season for the Ravens.

His best role on special teams is as a gunner on special teams. As the gunner, Boykin’s job is to get downfield fast and disrupt the punt return.

Steelers at Ravens, 2nd quarter, 5:40

Miles Boykin is the gunner, farthest to the bottom of the screen.

James Pierre is one of the better blockers in the NFL on punt returns, he mirrors well and is physical enough to control most gunners off the snap. Boykin’s release off the line is pretty well countered by Pierre, but his strength and speed win the matchup and Pierre is forced to let him go or get a holding penalty. Boykin shuts this return down, forcing a fair catch.

Steelers at Ravens, 2nd quarter, 2:43

Miles Boykin is the gunner, farthest to the top of the screen.

Here Boykin is away from Pierre. He wins the release easily with his long arms and solid hand fighting, uses his physicality to create space for himself, finds the ball and catches it, putting the Steelers inside the 10 yard line.

You can see some of the value a wide receiver offers in the gunner role compared to defensive backs, with their releases and hand fighting directly applying to the job. Boykin brings physicality and speed to the role as well, and while he doesn’t record many tackles (3 tackles in 417 special teams snaps for his career), you can see how tackles aren’t a key stat for covering punts. Forcing a fair catch or downing a punt are better than recording a tackle, even if it means you get no stat for the play.

Boykin was good enough on punt coverage to warrant special attention from the Steelers later in the game.

Steelers at Ravens, Overtime, 6:38

Miles Boykin is the gunner, farthest to the bottom of the screen.

The Steelers double teamed Boykin, and you can see the physicality and power he brings to the job as he fights through the double team block to again be in position to help had this punt been returned.

Miles Boykin brings one more benefit to the punt unit that deserves to be covered.

Miles Boykin is the Raven farthest to the bottom of the screen.

As a wide receiver with solid hands, Boykin is always a threat to catch a pass if his team decides to fake a punt. The Steelers drafted Pressley Harvin III in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and Harvin threw a touchdown pass in college. The Steelers didn’t have wide receivers playing the gunner role on the punting team though, and they didn’t have Harvin attempt a pass. With Miles Boykin on the unit with Harvin III, the Steelers have that threat.

I view Miles Boykin as a very good special teams player, who played on three of the four special teams units (he also played on kick returns but didn’t stand out). I wouldn’t call him a special teams ace though, and at 2.54 million dollars he will be slightly more expensive for 2022 than likely starting safety Terrell Edmunds. I expect that they see potential in Boykin to be a more productive receiver in Pittsburgh than he was in Baltimore, because even a really good punt and kickoff coverage player isn’t worth that kind of pay, unless Harvin III to Boykin becomes a regular connection...