The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their second preseason game Monday against the Washington Redskins and are looking to bounce back from their disappointing opener. One area where those improvements are extremely necessary is on special teams, where numerous gaffs and head scratching decisions cost the Steelers points against the New York Giants.
At punter the battle between incumbent Drew Butler and veteran Brian Moorman appears to headed to the final weeks of the preseason. Yes, Butler did suffer a blocked punt against the Giants, but that was in no way his fault, as the blocking left the defender come in untouched.
The return specialist position may be a bit more unsettled, as there were only a handful of viable return opportunities in game one. Fans are still waiting patiently to see exactly what speedster Reggie Dunn can offer, after he did not get a real chance in game one. He did have one chance to show his elite speed on a punt return, but was unable to turn the corner.
One player that must show some improvement in the return game is diminutive wide receiver David Gilreath. At this point in camp, Gilreath appears to be looking up the depth chart at a few younger wide outs, including Justin Brown, Derek Moye, and J.D. Woods (possibly even Dunn), and must beat them out with his special teams prowess. Unfortunately, he did not show that against the Giants.
One player who has yet to take his turns in the return game is veteran running back Larod Stephens-Howling, who was brought in as an unrestricted free agent from the Arizona Cardinals with that position in mind. Yes, he has seen reps out of the backfield, but he is an experienced option that has to be looking quite attractive after the poor decisions from the return game last week.
One player who is not a candidate to be a return specialist, but is being counted on to tote the ball, running back Le’Veon Bell, returned to practice Friday, after aggravating his knee on Thursday. To this point, when he has been on the field, Bell has been an eye opener and will likely see a lot of carries during the regular season if healthy.
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