Mike Prisuta's Fourth & Goal:

The Steelers' coverage unit is spending the week re-learning that it shouldn't think too much in spite of recent spate of touchdowns.

As anticipated, it's been a week of over-analyzing special-teams schemes and special-teams technique on the South Side.

When Josh Cribbs goes coast to coast it's understandable.

When Percy Harvin does the same it's unnerving, but at the same time it's Percy Harvin.

But when some slap from Cincinnati goes 96 yards into the end zone with the fourth NFL kickoff he's ever returned -- after fielding the ball on one bounce in the corner, no less -- it's time, as Mike Tomlin acknowledged, to "turn over every stone."

That explains all the high-level dissection of "cross-face" and what the R3 is supposed to be doing in relation to the L4 and even a roster move, the this'll-get-their-attention sacrificing of Arnold Harrison.

Yet amid all the tumult there's perspective. The coaching staff hasn't gone completely over the edge.

Among the advice, instruction and inspiration the special teamers have received this week has been:

"Let 'em hang."

"That's what coach always says, ‘Just let 'em hang and go out there and play,'" Ryan Mundy reported. And also:

"You can't go out there and chase ghosts."

The let-'em-hang reference should be obvious. The "ghosts" metaphor deals with looking ahead, not behind.

Cribbs scored; there's nothing the Steelers can do about that now. Harvin scored; there's nothing the Steelers can do about that now, either. They can't tackle either guy in Kansas City.

What they must do is play fast and aggressive and trust that, all recent evidence to the contrary, they really do know what they're doing covering kickoffs after all, and that they still have plenty of players capable of getting kickoff returners on the ground even without the likes of a Chidi Iwuoma, Sean Morey, Anthony Madison or even Arnold Harrison. Likewise, they can't be tentative in response to their suddenly contracting kickoff-return whiplash.

They'll be perceived as vulnerable around the league now, and once that happens "people start doing funny stuff," Mundy said. And once that happens there's the danger of becoming hesitant in coverage.

"You don't want another long play to happen so you're kind of just waiting to see what's happening instead of attacking," Mundy said.

As it is in most instances, the middle ground is preferable. Not too ballistic and not too timid.

The approach needs to be predatory, but with an understanding of what this kickoff coverage nonsense really boils down to at its core.

"For the most part it's just the fundamentals of football, running, getting off blocks and tackling," Mundy said.

Insisting it's too much more than that amounts to elevator music masquerading as damage control.


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