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Steelers Embrace Special Teams Ace as Game Changer



Mike Tomlin Steelers
Steelers safety Miles Killebrew and head coach Mike Tomlin against the Ravens, Oct. 8, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Miles Killebrew doesn’t get to play much on defense. But the veteran is in his eighth NFL season and has earned the special teams captainship for the Steelers. They pay him to play quality special teams, and yet, not only has he done that, he has exceeded expectations. His blocked punt on Sunday changed the game for the Steelers. It’s not something foreign to Killebrew. He has three blocked punts since 2021, when he joined the Steelers as a special teams ace, which is tied for the most of any team since then. Of course, Killebrew is just one man, making it even more impressive.

“I practice it. I don’t think anything happens on accident,” Killebrew said. “It’s something that I actively seek, and I am just thankful to be on a team of guys who do their job and so I am able to count on them so I am able to get it done.”

Killebrew landed in Pittsburgh in large part thanks to defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Austin, the defensive coordinator in Detroit from 2014 to 2017, saw a young Killebrew take to the league when he was drafted in the fourth round out of Southern Utah. It’s not surprising to Austin that Killebrew continues to make those plays. He is familiar with Killebrew’s understanding, which is why he continues returning to Pittsburgh.

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

“Well, he did, you know, obviously I drafted Miles, and so, I wanted him here because I know he is a valuable guy in the locker room,” Austin said. “I know he’s a valuable guy as a backup safety, a box safety type, and then special teams. And so, he’s valuable. When Keanu got dinged, he came into the game, and we don’t miss a beat. So, we like Miles, I like Miles. Miles does great, and has a great mindset to the team and he’s really valuable.”

Blocking punts is a niche job few people do at a high level. So, the Steelers are blessed to have a player such as Killebrew who has that acquired skill. He practices it all the time in special drills after practice, and it paid off for the Steelers in a huge way against the Ravens.

That’s why the Steelers care so much about special teams. Without that spark, they would not have won against the Ravens. Killebrew has often provided that all three blocks are coming in the fourth quarter of games. Count Killebrew in as a valuable team member who can change the game at a moment’s notice because he has so many times before.