Brown, in his second year, has been “getting it up” the field on punt and kickoff returns this season, ranking second in the AFC in both punt (14.6) and kickoff (31.6) average return yardage.
Perhaps an early favorite for Pro Bowl return specialist honors, Brown has drawn enough attention that teams have kicked punts away from him. That drove the hard-to-please Tomlin to say, “I don’t know if he’s done enough to dictate that at this point. He hasn’t even gone to the house.”
If that’s how Tomlin reacts to what has been a plus, imagine what he says about the plays made against his unit.
“We have been kind of feast or famine,” Tomlin said. “We recognize, moving forward, that giving up big plays could reduce our chances of winning. … Those negative plays, we have to eliminate, and eliminate them in a hurry if we want that unit to continue to be an asset for us.”
Tomlin backs up his words. During his first draft as coach in 2007, the Steelers took punter Daniel Sepulveda in the fourth round. Sepulveda is averaging 49.9 yards punting this season, sixth in the NFL.
Pittsburgh also has regularly drafted or signed return specialists. And after the Tennessee win, when Tomlin was asked about Jonathan Dwyer, who had 107 rushing yards in his second career game, the coach instead praised his work on special teams.
Dwyer is buying in, saying success on special teams is “all about your mentality upstairs in your head and your heart.”
“We’ve been a work in progress,” rookie Cameron Heyward said. “We have these big splash plays, but that doesn’t cancel out the bad plays.
“Until we eliminate those, it’s not a good enough performance.”
The Steelers (3-2) play host to Jacksonville (1-4) on Sunday.