Al Everest, special teams coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers
Q: What do you think about the new kickoff rule that moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line?
A: Last game there were seven kickoffs and six were touchbacks. The hard part for us was in evaluating players. Who can block? Who can cover? Who can do those things? We really didn't get much out of it, so that's the problem we're having is evaluating players. I think it'll come around when the weather gets cold and you're going to start seeing the return game come back in. I would assume. But I think for the first half, three-quarters of the season you're going to see the majority being touchbacks, or coming out eight yards deep, something like that.
Q: Antonio Brown says the cutoff for him is five yards deep in the end zone. If he catches it four yards deep, does he have clearance to take off?
A: Well, basically, coach told him that if he's under it and ready to trigger the catch at five yards in there, I'm sure we're going to give him a chance to return. We'd also like to see our guys block. We'd like to see them cover as well.
Q: Will teams begin using more pop-up kicks?
A: That's an option. Obviously, to me, if you can put your defense on the field at the 20-yard line, put them on the field at the 20. You start getting fancy and popping them up at the 10, and the guy returns it and hits a seam and goes back for a touchdown when you could've had them at the 20, I don't see that trade-off.
Q: Will there be more onside kicks?
A: I think it's a possibility. It's going to be a learning experience for everybody in this league because with the five-yard start rule and all the things, can you get enough steam to go steal the ball on the surprise? I think everybody's going to take a look around the league at what people are trying to do, if it works or doesn't work.
Q: Does it impact your roster? Do you need fewer cover guys?
A: You still have to cover punts. We had eight punts last game. We did a good job except for a couple that we'll clean up, but I don't know. It's kind of an interesting deal. I think what everybody's going to see is what we're seeing. We're going to go week to week. Like coach Tomlin says, we're not going to panic, we're not going to change anything, we're just going to be us and we will make the changes we need to make based on the merit of the change.
Q: The Bears kicked off from the 30 twice because, they said, they wanted to evaluate their coverage team.
A: And I understand that. The question of it is: Is it like a t-box that you can go anywhere behind the 35 and kickoff? Or do you have to kickoff from the 35? The officials changed it because the rulebook says you kickoff from the 35. So, I understand the Bears. I think the Bears may have been saying, ‘Hey, you're taking Devin Hester out of the game and we just gave him millions of dollars,' so I think there's a little more to that story than what you saw. But that's their business and it's up to them.
Q: As far as punt returners, is that Antonio's show?
A: Right now it's Antonio's show. It was his show last year and I think he's showing right now he's playing well. The bottom line is we know who he is. Again, we're trying to find out what else we've got, who else can be a returner, and solve some season starters, not just some starters for the day.
Q: Anyone else open your eyes there?
A: We're taking a look at Kenny Moore. We just signed him last week. He's done some returning for Carolina. He's not a young guy at it. We just signed [Jerricho] Cotchery. We know he's been a punt returner. He may fill the role kind of like [Antwaan] Randle El that we saw last year, being able to be the plus-50 secure catcher, that kind of stuff. We're going to let these things play out because the key is to get ready to play Baltimore in Baltimore. That's what we're focused on. We'll make adaptations and adjustments based on the merit of the change, not just change to make a change.
Q: Do you trust Antonio on the deep punts?
A: I trust him. He's got great hands. You've seen him as a receiver. He's got great hands. You saw him in the Super Bowl scoop up that one-hopper on the opening deal. He's got great hands. The thing he has to continue to learn as a young guy is making decisions down inside the 10 and the 5-yard line. It's like coach said, I'd rather say ‘Whoa' than ‘Sick em.' So the bottom line is right now we want him to go and we'll see what comes up, but we're excited about him.