The first casualty of the new kickoff rules could be Pittsburgh's Gary Anderson, one of the best kickers of all time. He's having great difficulty adjusting to the one-inch tee (down from three inches) and to kicking off from the 30-yard line instead of the 35, and the Steelers last week worked out another kicker, Todd Peterson. Anderson's kickoffs have been too low and too short, and after four weeks not one has been downed for a touchback. Last year one of every four Anderson kicks was not returned. On average in '93 Pittsburgh's opponents began their first series after receiving a Steeler kickoff just shy of their own 24-yard line. This year they're starting near the 42.
In fact, the two rule changes for kickoffs have had the intended effect of benefiting offenses throughout the league, though not as much as some observers had predicted. At the season's quarter pole, the average kickoff is landing only three yards farther from the end zone than last year. On the other hand, there have been only 43 touchbacks so far this fall, which projects to 182 for the season. Last year teams downed 536 kickoffs in the end zone. Here's how kickoffs in '93 compare with those to date this year.