By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — After a season with several returns run back for touchdowns, it was no surprise that the Pittsburgh Steelers fired their special teams coach.
Al Everest, booted after last season by the San Francisco 49ers, was hired as the Steelers’ special teams coordinator with Amos Jones retained for a fourth season as the club’s special teams assistant coach. Everest also has coached with the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals in a 14-year NFL career.
In an attempt to shore up their special teams, the Steelers signed free agents specifically for their previous work in that area. And a couple players were drafted with kickoff and punt coverage in mind. The Steelers also have spent two periods per practice on special teams and had an hour-long practice Tuesday morning that focused on coverages.
“Yeah, you could say things are a little different this year, at least so far,” return specialist Stefan Logan said. “Coach Everest, he’s a lot different than Coach Lig (Bob Ligashesky). Coach Lig yelled and screamed and ran around a lot, but Coach Everest gets his point across much differently. He’ll get on us, but he doesn’t have to scream all the time.”
During these special teams-oriented sessions that only last an hour, the linemen and quarterbacks generally don’t even stay on the field the entire time. But this day, first-year O-line coach Sean Kugler spent some time mentoring his group. Along with special teams coverage, run-blocking has been stressed.
In particular, the Steelers have worked on situational plays, including third down situations, short-yardage and goal-line. Kugler’s style also is different from the previous coach, Larry Zierlein, who also is some 20 years his senior.
Troy’s Alternative Conditioning
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu spent the majority of the morning session playing soccer with Steelers equipment manager Rodgers Freyvogel’s two young children and a couple ball boys, including college scout Kelvin Fisher’s son.
The younger Fisher, also named Kelvin, is a top safety prospect going into his senior season at Higley High school in Gilbert, Ariz.
Props to Coach LeBeau
Duquesne University men’s basketball coach Ron Everhart, his two young sons and the team’s announcer, George Von Benko, made a special trip to Steelers camp Tuesday to present defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau with a No. 44 Duquesne jersey.
The school honored LeBeau during a basketball game this past season after he was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the jersey was not yet framed. Now, it’s ready to go and was presented today. LeBeau also ate lunch with Everhart and his entourage.
Steelers Injury Update
Recently injured players Maurkice Pouncey (hamstring), Casey Hampton (hamstring) and Rashard Mendenhall (toe) all said they are going to attempt to go through a full practice Tuesday afternoon.
Pouncey guaranteed it. Hampton did individual workouts Monday, but no team stuff and is expected back full-time. Mendenhall was less committal, but said he would try.
“You have to be smart about it and take care of those things, especially this early in camp,” Mendenhall said. “You don’t want something like this to be nagging you for an extended period of time.”
Mendenhall had a foot stepped on and injured his big toe. The nail was damaged, and the toe was drained Monday. It’s painful, he said, but he’ll play if he can.