Pitt’s Quadree Henderson Steelers’ ‘No. 1’ punt, kickoff returner in preseason opener
For Quadree Henderson’s first NFL game, he’ll be atop the depth chart at two spots.
A former All-American returner at Pitt, Henderson said he was told Tuesday by Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and special teams coach Danny Smith he will get first crack at return duties in the Steelers’ preseason opener Thursday.
“I just found out I’ll be the starting punt returner and starting kick returner, No. 1 up there for right now,” Henderson said late Tuesday morning. “It’s a big opportunity for me to go out there and showcase my skill.”
The Steelers open their preseason against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field. Henderson is from Wilmington, Del., about a half-hour drive away.
Henderson left Pitt with one season of eligibility remaining after appearing in 34 games from 2015-17. He left the Panthers with four career kickoff-return touchdowns and three touchdowns on punt returns. In 2016, Henderson was a consensus All-American return specialist.
During training camp at Saint Vincent , Henderson has taken part in practice reps for punts and kickoffs, often only with Justin Thomas accompanying him on punts and with Thomas, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cameron Sutton on kickoffs.
Smith-Schuster’s kickoff return touchdown in last season’s finale was the Steelers’ first in more than seven years. Antonio Brown has four career punt-return touchdowns, but the Steelers would prefer that Brown, now 30 and an All-Pro receiver, not perform return duties.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.