More than lip service paid to special teams

PITTSBURGH – Bill Cowher talked about his offense, his defense and the controversial cuts he'd made last weekend. But no one asked the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers about his special teams and the cuts he didn't make.

No one had to.

Cowher, to the delight of special-teams coach Kevin Spencer, kept coverage aces Chidi Iwuoma and Sean Morey over flashy rookies Fred Gibson and Andre Frazier.

"I'm not unhappy, let's put it that way," said Kevin Spencer. "We got No. 29 [Iwuoma] back and Sean did a good job. We've got a good group."

Spencer went into camp hoping to keep both gunners, but Iwuoma injured his shoulder and had to sit out the third preseason game.

Iwuoma thought his situation was precarious, so he played with the injury in the fourth preseason game. And he played so well – even though he couldn't hide the pain from cameras – that Cowher made Spencer's day.

"He really is a godsend," Spencer said of the 184-pound Iwuoma. "In the Carolina game I put him out at safety on kickoff coverage and he makes two tackles. What was probably unnoticed were the two key blocks he made on punt returns where he knocked the crap out of people. He really does a good job. He's a special kid; he really is."

So that gives Spencer two coverage aces, a coverage ace of the future in Bryant McFadden, a kicker who's made 17 field goals in a row, a punter analysts ranked No. 2 in the league last year, and a rookie long-snapper.

A rookie long-snapper?

Was cutting seventh-year vet Mike Schneck in favor of rookie Greg Warren simply a matter of saving $310,000?

"Not in my mind," said Spencer. "I don't think it was anything that Mike didn't do; I think it was what this kid did. I know Mike won't agree with it, but Greg's better. He's younger, a little more athletic, snaps the ball a tad bit quicker. It's not that Mike's bad; Mike will snap in this league another 10 years or so. I just think this guy's better."

Spencer also likes Warren's ability to get down the field in coverage.

"He's around the ball," Spencer said. "He's done some good things where he's leveraged people and is in the right place at the right time. He runs pretty well.

"I like this kid because he's unflappable. He's quietly confident. I think you can get in his face and it's not going to faze him. He's really a cool customer. I like that a lot."

Cowher was asked about cutting Schneck, among others.

"It's not like there haven't been times when we have brought in other long-snappers," Cowher said. "The guy we brought in is good. He's the best guy we've brought in to challenge Mike."

Cowher also gave explanations about cutting the following:

  • Gibson – "I think we felt good about Nate Washington. He came out of nowhere and had a very good preseason. He has very natural hands. It was a tough decision that we had to make. We were hopeful to get Fred back for the practice squad, but he decided to go down to Miami.
  • Russell Stuvaints – "That was probably one of the tougher cuts we made. We waited another day on that one. Mike Logan, with the camp that he's had, he wasn't there a year ago and now he's there. I felt like Ty Carter was more of a free safety-type than Russell was."
  • Brian St. Pierre – "An experienced guy like Charlie Batch is just good to have around. He played well."
  • Alonzo Jackson – "It just didn't work out. It doesn't serve any purpose to dwell on it."
  • Not one of these players could beat out a 5-foot-8 injured sixth cornerback. And no one had to ask why.

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