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Curtis Brown led the Steelers in special teams tackles last season.
Cleaning up the coverage units with be important for Danny Smith.
The Steelers allowed 24.0 yards per kick return and 10.2 yards per punt return last season, which ranked 17th and 22nd, respectively.
These numbers were not particularly good, and they could be even worse now that several of their top special teams players are gone.
Will Allen, Ryan Mundy and Brandon Johnson were all key members of the coverage units and will have to be replaced this year. Smith will have to depend on the rookies to do that.
Luckily, the Steelers drafted a number of rookies who not only have bright futures on defense, but can make an immediate impact on special teams.
Shamarko Thomas can fly around the field and likes to hit. These are perfect attributes for playing on special teams.
In addition to Thomas, Smith will need the rookie linebackers to contribute. Typically, linebackers who go on to start for the Steelers get their start out on special teams—and oftentimes, they shine.
Jarvis Jones and Vince Williams could be two of the bigger playmakers.
They may limit Jones depending on his role on defense, but Williams will need to make a big impact to help earn a roster spot. The same can be said about cornerback Terry Hawthorne.
The good news is that their leading special teams tackler from last season—Curtis Brown—is returning. He finished the year with 18 tackles, which was third best in the league.
Smith’s cover units in Washington have performed well in recent years. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, they finished seventh in kick return average allowed last season after leading the league in 2010 and 2011. The Redskins had the third-ranked punt return average allowed last year.