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Steelers Unleash Unheralded Special Teams Standout



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 is the Steelers’ special teams captain for a reason. A special teams specialist throughout his career with Pittsburgh and the Detroit Lions, Killebrew has made several plays similar to this against the Ravens. Regarding the nitty gritty, Pittsburgh has a specially designed A-Gap blitz that is supposed to get Killebrew free. He broke through the protection and blocked Jordan Stout’s punt for a safety.

“We had a block on, and he delivered,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “This guy has blocked a lot of kicks in recent years. He’s got to be tops in the National Football League in that regard. It’s been special to be a part of it.”

John Harbaugh saw the play coming but blames his punt block team the most. There is nothing crazy about an A-gap blitz, even if Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith dialed it up precisely for Killebrew to make a play. With the Ravens backed up, they cashed in on just that.

“It’s just an A-gap rush,” Harbaugh said. “We didn’t block the guy we were supposed to block, and another situation where we can … To me, that’s kind of an example of the whole game right there. We did not do the things that we needed to do in certain situations that we’re capable of doing, we can do, [and] we will do going forward, but we didn’t do them today.”

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.

“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.”

It was feast or famine for the Steelers special teams against the Ravens, as Gunner Olszewski fumbled on a punt return. But Killebrew’s play set the wheels in motion to fuel a comeback bid that ended successfully. Nearly a touchdown, Pittsburgh does not get the win without the spark Killebrew provided on that lone special teams.