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Steelers All 90: Miles Killebrew Still Loves Covering Kickoffs; ‘Closest to War I’ll Get’

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Steelers Miles Killebrew

Early on in Miles Killebrew’s NFL career, he became a special teams ace for the Detroit Lions. Killebrew plays on all four phases of special teams, meaning that he plays on both sides of punt and kickoff coverages, field goals and extra points.

Killebrew was drafted by the Lions in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and became a mainstay in Detroits due to his ability on special teams. After five years in the Motor City, Killebrew signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is entering his third season with the team.

Entering the 2023 season, Killebrew is the most experienced player on the special teams unit and takes pride in his play at the position.

“I love the pure competitiveness in special teams,” said Killebrew. “There’s something to be said about the fact that we don’t get do-overs. Our plays might be fewer but you don’t get second chance on punt or kickoff.”

Not every player gets to be the star player and Killebrew accepted that his way of staying in the NFL was to focus on special teams. He said that he likes to play on with that group because it fits his free-flowing mindset that he carries as a human.

“I’m kind of loose in the head sometimes but I just love running down on kickoff, I love the fact that it’s the closest to war I’ll get, running on the front lines,” joked Killebrew. “It’s a surreal feeling, it’s a very unique thing that not a lot of people, even in my own sport experience, get to ever experience. I love it.”

After all of the things that Killebrew has experienced over his eight-year career, he says that his favorite thing to do in football nowadays can only happen on the special teams phase of the ball. That thing is to block a punt which he did twice for the Steelers in his first season with the team in 2021.

“I’ve intercepted the ball at this level, I have a pick-six to my name, I’ve forced fumbles, I have a couple of TFLs, but there’s nothing that correlates to blocking a punt,” said Killebrew. “It is just an amazing feeling… It’s just so much fun.”

With multiple key departures on the special teams unit, including players such as Derek Watt, Benny Snell, and Marcus Allen, Killebrew’s production needs to bounce back to the level that he displayed in 2021 because he is going to be one of the most valuable players on that unit.

Of course, with the NFL reducing the number of kickoffs that will be returned by allowing fair catches to be brought out to the 25-yard line, it’s not clear how important special teams will continue to be when it comes to players making a role in the league.

28 • Miles Killebrew, Safety, Southern Utah
6-foot-2, 222 pounds, 30 years old, 8th Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Killebrew after his contract with the Detroit Lions expired following the 2020 season. After his first season with the Steelers, he re-signed with the team for two more seasons. He is now entering his third season as a member of the Steelers.

Last seasonIn 2022, Killebrew did not create nearly as much chaos on special teams as he did during his first season apart the Steelers. In fact, Killebrew registered 290 special team snaps last season but recorded only four tackles with those opportunities.

Steelers SS Miles Killebrew

Steelers SS Miles Killebrew makes a tackle in a preseason game against the Detroit Lions, Aug. 22, 2021. — Ed Thompson / PSN

CareerThe Detroit Lions drafted Killebrew with the 111th pick in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Killebrew played in all 16 games in his rookie season and recorded his first career interception against Drew Brees in Week 13 of the 2016 season.

Killebrew made his first career start at safety in Week 3 of the 2017 season and went on to have his most productive season in his career, defensively. In 2017, Killebrew played in 16 games for the Lions while starting three of them. He finished with 38 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble.

After his second season, Killebrew started to play special teams more and more as he eventually made it his calling. Since entering the NFL, Killebrew has played 2,254 special team snaps and recorded 48 solo special teams’ tackles which both rank third in the entire league during that span.

Killebrew played his first five season in Detroit before signing with the Steelers before the 2021 season. During his first season in Pittsburgh, Killebrew blocked two punts.

In his career, Killebrew has played in 112 games with four starts, all coming in his first two seasons. In total, Killebrew registered 62 tackles, six passes defended, two interceptions, two tackles for loss, and one forced fumble.

Year GP Team Tackles INTs FFs PFF Rating
2016 16 DET 28 1 0 60.4
2017 16 DET 38 1 1 57.9
2018 16 DET 7 0 0 60.0
2019 15 DET 20 0 0 50.3
2020 15 DET 12 0 0
2021 17 PIT 13 0 0 64.1
2022 17 PIT 4 0 0 70.5

CollegeKillebrew committed to Southern Utah University out of high school and redshirted as a freshman in 2011. As a redshirt freshman, Killebrew started all 11 games of the season at strong safety. He finished tied for first on the team with five pass breakups and third in tackles with 69. Following the season he was named as an honorable mention All-Big Sky and was a nominee for the Jerry Rice award, the top newcomer at the FCS level.

In 2013, Killebrew finished with 54 total tackles and was named an honorable mention All-Big Sky for the second straight year.

As a redshirt junior, Killebrew played in all 12 games of the season and finished second on the team with 101 total tackles. He also recorded two tackles for loss, three interceptions, and seven passes defended.

Year TKLs INTs PBUs
2011 0 0 0
2012 69 0 5
2013 54 0 2
2014 101 3 7

Salary cap and future: The Steelers re-signed Killebrew to a two-year, $4 million contract following the 2021 season. He is entering the second year of the deal and will cost $2.48 million against the team’s cap space. Killebrew’s 2023 cap hit is comprised of a $2 million salary and $482,500 in bonus money. Killebrew is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2023 season.

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