Eighteen NFL stadiums still feature natural grass, and one of those stadiums is Heinz Field, the site of Sunday night’s showdown between the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With a projected low of 35 degrees Sunday night, punter Sam Koch is hopeful that the above-freezing temperatures will keep the grass inside Heinz Field soft enough to kill punts inside the 20.
“When you watched [Monday] night with Kansas City, some of their punts when they hit the ground, they landed soft,” Koch said. “And so it’s one of those things where – especially going inside the 20 – there’s always a good chance. Now throughout the week, the ground might be a little cold although they do have a heater underneath the field. But it’s going to be soft. It usually gets torn up pretty quick, and there’s a lot of extra grass like Cleveland’s was. All the dirt was broken up, all the grass was broken up, so everything was really loose, which kind of provides a little dampener for when the ball hits.”
Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt placed five of his eight punts on Monday night inside the 20. In eight career visits to Heinz Field, Koch has landed 14 punts inside the 20.
Koch said despite a more natural bounce that grass provides, he didn’t think he would be more aggressive with his punts to pin the Steelers closer to their own end zone.
“We’re still going to try to do the same thing we do every week,” he said. “But when it hits maybe the 1 or the 2, maybe we’ll have a better chance of getting it than it just shotgunning off into the end zone.”
Special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg noted that the shape of the football makes it difficult to accurately predict how the ball will land. But he said that he has a lot of confidence in Koch, who is the franchise’s all-time leader in career punts inside the 20 with 183.
“Sam has been training for a long time on his pooch punts, trying to get the ball inside the 10,” Rosburg said of Koch, who has placed 13 punts inside the 20 this season. “You hit it and you hope for the best. That’s just honestly the way that it happens. Sam’s got a lot of skill and hopefully, this week, it comes to our favor.”