The Steelers' decision to fire special teams coordinator Al Everest two games into the preseason is surprising, and not just because of the timing of his dismissal.
The performance of the special teams has been more than adequate since Everest was hired in 2010, not allowing a return longer than 45 yards in the two years he was in charge and producing the team's first Pro Bowl return specialist in 22 years.
But Everest, 61, was fired Wednesday and replaced by assistant special teams coach Amos Jones -- a surprising move because NFL teams rarely, if ever, make coaching changes in training camp.
The Steelers did not give a reason for Everest's dismissal, other than coach Mike Tomlin saying in a statement, "We have to decided to go in a different direction with respect to the coaching of our special teams."
The decision, however, would appear to be unrelated to the performance of the coverage or return units.
The Steelers ranked 12th in the league in punt coverage and 16th in kick coverage in 2011.
They did not allow a kick return longer than 45 yards or a punt return longer than 20.
What's more, Antonio Brown made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist -- the first Steelers player to do so since Rod Woodson in 1990 -- after becoming the first player in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 return yards in the same season.
Everest is the second special teams coach that Tomlin has fired.
Bob Ligashesky, hired on Tomlin's original staff in '07, was fired after the '09 season. That season the Steelers ranked 24th in punt coverage, 30th in kick coverage and allowed four kick returns for touchdowns, tying an NFL record.
Ligashesky was replaced by Everest.
This firing, though, was different.
The Steelers ranked near the top of the league in kick coverage and punt coverage in 2010 and did not allow a kick return longer than 38 yards or a punt return longer than 36 yards.
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.