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 Post subject: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 7:17 am 
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It is funny, when I bring this up in conversations I usually have people quick to shut it down. People tend to quickly go to the boilerplate of are you crazy?, Brown is a Pro Bowl return man!!!

But is he? Does he really even want to be out there anymore returning punts? 2013 was his best season as a punt returner and it has been all downhill since, with him having fewer returns, for less yardage, and fewer big splash plays. Don't believe me? Let us look at the production the past 4 years.

2013 32 returns for 409 yards, 12.8 avg, 1 TD, 7 returns over 20+ yards, 5 returns over 40+ yards, 23 FCs, 1 fumble
2014 30 returns for 319 yards, 10.6 avg, 1 TD, 3 returns over 20+ yards, 1 return over 40+ yards, 16 FCs, 1 fumble
2015 22 returns for 212 yards, 9.6 avg, 1 TD, 2 returns over 20+ yards, 1 return over 40+ yards, 13 FCs, 2 fumbles
2016 15 returns for 140 yards, 9.3 avg, 0 TD, 2 returns over 20+ yards, 0 returns over 40+ yards, 15 FCs

Playoff games
2015 2 returns for 8 yards, 4.0 avg
2016 4 returns for 28 yards, 7.0 avg

Sorry my fellow comrades, but that to me shows a player who is becoming disinterested and certainly becoming less effective with every passing year. He has gone from 30 to 22 to 15, with that downward progression he will be lucky to have 8 returns this season. Notice the return yardage diminishing every season, notice the return average declining each season. He had as many fair catches as he did returns last season.

And come playoff time? Come on, it is not enough to just go out there and play it safe and not fumble. No, playoff time is when you are supposed to come up big as a return man. I will give you an example, say what you want about Santonio Holmes but the man came through as a punt returner in the playoffs when we needed it. In his 2008 playoff run, 3 games, Holmes had 7 returns for 103 yards, a 14.7 avg and 1 TD.

So, to me it isn't a matter of allowing Brown to decide when he does not want to do returns anymore, his actions have proven that already, time to get him out of there. Especially now that he has a new $70+ million contract. It is no longer just a matter of preventing injury with him, but actually getting back to having a decent return man out there. The way he is picking his spots now, the way he is half-heartedly playing the punt returner role is going to lead him to get injured. That is a position where you have to be aggressive and have your head screwed on straight. It is time to move on to a younger player who has more ambition in that role.

Who are the candidates then? In no particular order they are Eli Rogers, Demarcus Ayers and Cam Sutton. Rogers and Sutton are virtual locks to make the team at their respective positions of WR and CB. Ayers probably needs to have a monster preseason as the punt returner to make the team because the WR position is so stacked.

Eli Rogers in college at Louisville had 29 returns for 248 yards, an 8.6 avg and 0 TDs, his best season he had 11 returns for 112 yards, 10.2 avg and 0 TDs. In the NFL he had 7 returns for 45 yards, a 6.4 avg and 0 TDs. That really does nothing to inspire the faithful. He really wouldn't be much of an upgrade over what Brown did last season. The one thing is that while he does not have great speed, he did have a 6.71 3-cone and a 4.1 short shuttle at his pro day despite running a 4.57 40. I just did not see that quickness or elusiveness from him last season when he had the ball in his hand as a WR. He did have the foot injury, was it turf toe?, okay, maybe that did have some impact on his ability to run after the catch. Maybe he will make strides this preseason and show to be more dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Demarcus Ayers at his Pro Day improved upon his horrible 4.72 40 by running 4.58 and 4.60 with a 6.91 3 cone. On his college tape he does look more like a 4.6 guy who will not out run anybody but he can break some long ones. No, he is not the second coming of say an Eric Metcalfe who will dazzle you with his moves and lateral quickness. I did see him do some jump cuts, I did see him able to stop and start and do some nice cuts. I like the way he will use his head and shoulders to do subtle fakes to get the defender to committ and then elude the tackler. As a return man you have to be able to make that first man miss and Ayers can do that. He also has underrated strength and balance, you saw many defenders swiping at his legs, ankles and he would not go down easily. How did he do as a return man in college? As a punt returner he had 33 returns for 317 yards, a 9.6 avg and 1 TD and the bulk of that came in his last year as he had 28 returns for 295 yards, 10.5 avg and 1 TD. He also did well as a kick returner and added another TD.

Cam Sutton was injured his senior season and missed 6 games and they really took him off punt return duties to a great extent. For his career he had 46 returns for 657 yards, a 14.3 avg and 3 TDs. His best year was his JR year where he had 26 returns for 467 yards, an 18.0 avg and 2 TDs. He ran a 4.52 40 with a 6.81 3 cone. His speed and quickness is really evident when you watch him on returns compared to Rogers or Ayers. He can accelerate and pull away from people. I love his hands and confidence as a return man. You go back and look at his Junior year tape and check out this one return against Bowling Green. The ball was punted short but took a great bounce and was tumbling by Sutton. He started running backwards for the end zone, and tracked the football as it was tumbling along and snatched it out of the air and then ran 50 yards on the return. That is what I look for in a punt returner, balls of steel, confidence, swagger.

3 young players, 3 options to replace Brown on punt returns. I think Sutton will get the job with Eli as the backup. Ayers really has a tough time to make the team both as a WR or as a PR. I can see this being a great competition during the preseason games, to have Rogers, Ayers and Sutton as the punt returners. Would not surprise me to see Ayers end up elsewhere in the NFL as a backup WR and punt returner. I just think that this is the year where Brown is taken off returns and all the planets have lined up to make it so.

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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 7:24 am 
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For fear of injuries? No.

Because we can do better? Yes.

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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 7:37 am 
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I know it is popular to say that a punt returner rarely get injured, but let me point out some examples. When you have a return man who is picking his spots and not going full tilt, lets up, he is opening himself up for injury. I saw Brown take some unnecessarily hard hits last season because he was running sideways for the sidelines, was basically giving up on the play, slowing down, trotting out of bounds and the opposing team did not care. They came up and smacked him while he was still within the field of play.

If Brown is going to continue to do that he needs to be taken off the field as a punt returner because he will get hurt sooner or later.

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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 8:39 am 
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Yes

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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 10:31 am 
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To me he looked disinterested at times returning punts. Maybe he wasn't and was just being smart, picking up his spots....i don't know what these guys see on the field.

But he wasn't the same returner he was in past. Perhaps wallet weighing him down.


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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 11:29 am 
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Great discussion Scunge.

It's hard for me to pinpoint where the actual 'decrease in production' is. Whether it's Brown's abilities to return or the whole ST's corp not playing that well. Having to look at it again and again I believe it's a combination of the two. But not equal. I think Brown can still return well. I think the coverage units have been average to below average. I think Brown has had some really good returns over the seasons that were negated due to poorly executed ST's coverage teams. As far as it being an additional risk goes. Sure that can be debated. I think if Brown and Tomlin was worried about his health/safety thereby career then he'd have already retired from football completely.

Now if there's a way that ST's gets better and Brown is phased out for a more elusive 'better' return man then I'm all for it. The players that I've seen back there before Brown and even during Brown have not done as well. I can't see handicapping the team because Brown is your best WR as well as returner. Camp, OTA's and preseason could unfold successfully for all due to several new players having return experience. Could Brown finally be unseated as primary returner? Would be nice to upgrade that aspect of the team for sure. Better coverage unit as well as return man? Problem resolved.

To do it just because it adds more risk of injury to the best WR/PR on the team is a cowardly flawed approach and would likely backfire in counter production throughout the season. By improving your coverage unit for ST's you directly increase the valued success of your returner, whomever he may be.

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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 12:09 pm 
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Miter Saw wrote:
To me he looked disinterested at times returning punts. Maybe he wasn't and was just being smart, picking up his spots....i don't know what these guys see on the field.

But he wasn't the same returner he was in past. Perhaps wallet weighing him down.


Or the coaches told him to play it safe, which I think is the best bet.

Either way, he's clearly the best man for the job until proven otherwise. Is there anyone else you trust late in the game, with a crowd around them, in a high pressure situation fielding a punt? Hell no. If someone wants the job, beat him out of it in practice, in training camp, and the preseason. No one has come close to that in years.


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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 3:42 pm 
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Two things.

1. Brown is clearly the most talented return man we have on the roster. You don't purposefully put a less talented player out there in a key spot.

2. His stats don't show the respect he gets from opposing teams. They'd rather kick it high and short or out of bounds to avoid his returns. Ayers or whoever else doesn't get that kind of fear from opponents.


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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sat May 13, 2017 10:26 pm 
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You know I keep hearing that the blocking is bad, that Brown could do better, that Fitz and Coates could do better on kick returns if it weren't for the supposedly bad blocking.

I just feel like that is bullshit. When I look at these other teams and their return units, I see similar blocking to ours but their return men do a better job of running with the ball, of being more decisive, or being more elusive, making the first man miss.

It does not matter if Brown is being hesitant and picking his spots, or is being told to play it safe, the end result is the same, he is not the best man for the job under those circumstances. He no longer is a Pro Bowl caliber return man playing that way, and he is no longer an easy choice over say a Sutton.

The opposing team punted 70 times last season for 3,039 yards for a 43.4 yard average, with no blocks. They had 7 touchbacks and 13 punts that went out of bounds. So, there were 50 punts that were in play.

Kansas City had their opposing teams punt 69 times for 3,075 yards, for a 44.6 yard average with no blocks. They had 6 touchbacks and 12 punts that went out of bounds, So, they had 51 punts that were in play.

I bring up KC because they too have a Pro Bowl return man in Tyreek Hill. Teams may have tried to kick it out of bounds or tried to kick it away from him but that really does not work if the return man is good enough and ambitious enough.

Tyreek Hill had 39 punt returns last season and just 8 fair catches. When I look at the top punt return men they just hate fair catches. A good measure is to at least have a 2 to 1 ratio of returns to fair catches. Hill obviously did much better than that. How did Brown do? 15 returns and 15 fair catches and that resulted in him having one of his worst years at punt returns.

There have been many times last season and in the past two seasons where I saw Brown signal for a fair catch and make the catch and there was not a defender around him for 5 yards. And sometimes it was more than 5 yards, I once saw him make a fair catch with 10 yards between him and the first would-be tackler. Piss on that!!

We ended up 30th in punt return yardage for 2016. 4 years ago when Brown had his best season as a punt returner we were 6th. We have gone from 6th, to 8th, to 26th and now we are quickly racing to the bottom at 30th, can 32nd be far behind? You can blame blocking, but I blame a return man who is losing his nerve and calling for too many damn fair catches and picking his spots.

Again, time to take Brown off punt returns and get back to respectability, he is no longer a top return man and it is dubious to say that he is the best that we have at returns.

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 Post subject: Re: Isn't it time to take Brown off punt returns?
PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2017 9:46 am 
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While I do agree with Scunge on Brown not being the 'Pro Bowl' return man he once was. I think that is just partly the issue with ST's. My question is, who the hell have the Steelers had available for return duties who is going to do any better? I don't believe there was one guy on that roster in 2016 that could be any better or more reliable punt returning than Brown. I'm sure you can argue that it's a difference of perception thing. To that I state, Ayers wasn't in the mix as much as fans were led to believe. From what I observed he was so-so at returning. Coates, with the hand injury wasn't ever going to be any competition for returning duties. Was Coates a failed attempt? Incomplete. That left who exactly?

The blocking discussion is legit IMO. The ST's the Steelers field every season has their major flaws. Fans always bitching about how UN-Special ST's is. Be it penalties, poorly executed plays or simply the low ceiling talent there is always something about ST's that disappoints. Improvement is always screamed for by fans. The product fielded on Sunday's are proof. I've seen countless 'fire Danny Smith' threads every season since his hire. You really can't expect to have all pro's peppered throughout the three phases of your football team. Even if you're fortunate to be in that position they still have to be in that specific position and more importantly remain healthy all season. Asking a lot IMO.

Sutton 'may' be in the mix early on. Sounds familiar to what was planned for Ayers. Speaking of Ayers, he will have to be in the mix if he expects to hold onto a roster spot. Rogers was far too tentative and stunk it up... disappointing IMO. We already know Coates while injured wasn't able to prove himself capable of return duties. From the small samples we were able to observe of Ayers, Coates and Rogers none were inspiring any pro bowl nominations. Thinking about this matter optimistically..., perhaps, they've struck gold and there is a 'diamond in the rough' guy in for tryouts that can compete? But right now... as of the current roster, Brown is the only proven 'successful' returner.

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