Steelers notebook: Special teamers throw block party vs. Titans
Much to the delight of special teams coach Danny Smith, the Steelers threw another block party Thursday.
Ten weeks after scoring a touchdown off a blocked a punt for the first time since 1998, the Steelers special teamers Thursday recorded their first blocked field goal in more than a year.
Rookie T.J. Watt’s block of a Ryan Succop attempt early in the second quarter of the Steelers game against the Tennessee Titans was the first field goal blocked by the Steelers since Daniel McCullers did it Oct. 16, 2016 at Miami.
Tyler Matakevich’s blocked punt in the Sept. 10 season opener at Cleveland — recovered by Anthony Chickillo for a touchdown — was the first punt block by the Steelers in seven years.
While all Steelers players were on the field and standing for the playing of the national anthem — as they have for all but one game this season — a handful of Titans players participated in their own form of protest.
Wide receiver Rishard Matthews stayed in the locker room for the anthem as he has for much of this season. At least three teammates — Brian Orakpo, Jurrell Casey and Wesley Woodyard — raised a fist during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
The United States Herald Trumpets of the Army Band performed the anthem, with joint services Honor Guard representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
Thursday was the Steelers’ “Salute to Service” game. Members of all five branches of armed forces were given with on- and off-field recognition throughout the day. The Steelers wore helmet decals representing military branches, and at halftime representatives of each branch competed in an on-field competition to win a donation to a charity of their choice.
The Steelers have had a special teams captain each week that would accompany offensive and defensive captains Ben Roethlisberger and Cameron Heyward onto the field for the coin toss.
Not so Thursday, when Roethlisberger and Heyward were alone. The Steelers won the toss and elected to receive.
Counting Thursday, the Steelers have not allowed a touchdown on an opponent’s first offensive possession for 27 consecutive games — the longest active streak in the NFL. Thursday, Mike Hilton had an interception three plays into the Titans’ first possession. … Cameron Heyward sacked Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota on the final play of the first quarter, passing Brett Keisel for third place on the Steelers’ career list for sacks by a defensive lineman (31). … During the first quarter, Antonio Brown passed Larry Fitzgerald for the fourth-most receptions by an NFL player in his first eight seasons. Fitzgerald had 393 from 2004-2011. … The Steelers had two interceptions during the first half of a game for the first time since Dec. 6, 2015.