Flowers Looks At Special Concerns

<p>Perhaps the most outspoken person following the Steelers' 24-17 loss to the New England Patriots in last season's AFC Championship Game was safety Lee Flowers. Flowers has been around long enough to have played on the Steelers' last Super Bowl team as a rookie in 1995.</p>

A standout special teams player his first few seasons in the league, Flowers took extreme displeasure in the fact that a couple of special teams letdowns stopped the Steelers from going to the Super Bowl last season. And he let everyone know about it.

Now, however, Flowers isn't quite as outspoken about his displeasure for the special teams gaffes that led to two New England touchdowns and cost that unit's coach, Jay Hayes, his job.

"I don't want to blow the special teams thing out of proportion," said Flowers, who, along with the rest of the team's starting defensive backfield at training camp, has been working at special teams under new coach Kevin Spencer.

"It happened, it's over with. It's rectified as far as I'm concerned. I'm not saying that was Jay's fault. I think a lot of people thought I was pointing fingers at Jay. I wasn't. I was saying that if you have a job to do, you have to do it to the best of your ability, whether you're running down on kickoffs or if you're the starting quarterback."

Flowers said he was pointing the finger more at the younger players on the team who didn't carry their weight. He doesn't see that happening again this season. "We've got a lot of young guys out here who want to (play special teams)," Flowers said. "If you can't do that and do it well, you damn sure aren't going to be a starter."

Flowers should know. After playing on special teams exclusively his first three seasons in the league, he has been the Steelers' starting strong safety the past four seasons. Other current starters who were special teams aces include linebackers Jason Gildon and Joey Porter, and wide receiver Hines Ward. Gildon and Ward both made the Pro Bowl last season, while Porter is considered to be a player with Pro Bowl potential.

-- Dale Lolley

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