Pittsburgh has had problems on special teams for years, but this year things have hit rock bottom. The Steelers have given up three touchdowns on kick returns in just the last four games. How bad is it? Pittsburgh is threatening what I thought was an untouchable record: Worst net kickoff value in DVOA history.
Going back to 1994, only three teams have finished a season with net kickoffs that were so bad that they cost the team more than 20 points of estimated field position compared to NFL average. The 2005 Cardinals score at -20.7. The 1995 Eagles score at -20.9. But Steve Christie and the 2000 Bills blow both those teams away with an absurd -31.0 value on kickoffs. The difference between the Bills and the second-worst team, the 1995 Eagles, is the same as the difference between the Eagles and the team ranked FIFTY-FIRST OVERALL!
I never thought a team would get to the Bills, but the Steelers are inching down there. Check out this week's special teams ratings, and you will see that Pittsburgh's value on net kickoffs is -26.2 points of field position. Jeff Reed has the worst kickoffs of the year (-7.1 points, -3.5 points worse than any other kicker). Filter out the length of kickoffs, and Pittsburgh has the worst coverage too, allowing 20.3 points of returns. No other team has allowed over 10 points worth of returns.
(Note that net value isn't exactly kick value plus coverage value, due to non-returnable kickoffs like touchbacks and kicks out of bounds.)
This does come with a bit of an asterisk, because I'm planning an overhaul of special teams ratings in the offseason. But while the exact numbers will change, the craptacularness of the 2000 Bills and 2009 Steelers kick coverage teams will not.