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Will Odell Beckham Jr. field punts vs. Steelers?


! **WR Odell Beckham Jr. may see more action on special teams against the Steelers:


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Pittsburgh Steelers use Antonio Brown, their four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, as their primary punt returner.

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Will the Giants have Odell Beckham, Jr. assume that same duty when the two teams meet Sunday in Pittsburgh?

No one is saying, but it's a tantalizing prospect. Beckham returned three punts for 35 yards in the Giants' 27-13 victory in Cleveland. But it was a 59-yarder that was nullified by a holding penalty that demonstrated Beckham can inflict lethal damage on an opponent, even when he's not catching passes.

"Hopefully we get another chance to run some back," Beckham said this week. "It's something I've been doing pretty much all my life. I've done punt return and kick return. It's just what it is. It's just another opportunity. They punt it and that ball is going straight to you. Your teammates are out there making the blocks. You just have to make cuts off of them."

Beckham has long lobbied to run backs punts. He returned 62 of them in his three seasons at LSU, two of them for touchdowns, one an 89-yarder. In his first two Giants seasons, he averaged 8.6 yards on 23 punts, the longest gaining 25 yards. He has four returns this year.

"I think it gets you going on offense," Beckham said. "You get an opportunity to catch a ball and put one in your hands. Run, hopefully you don't get hit but you get an opportunity to get tackled. It's a lot of fun. It's something that I do enjoy. Hopefully I can help this team out in that way or whatever way I can."

But the perception is that Beckham, the Giants' most productive and dangerous offensive player, would be at a greater risk to suffer an injury were he to return punts. Coach Ben McAdoo indicated that might not be a factor.

"I think every play that they're out there on the field is a risk," McAdoo said.

Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was asked if "there's a lump in your throat" when Beckham fields punts.

"He's obviously, as well all know, a heck of a player, and a lot of good things happen when the ball is in his hands," Sullivan said. "So, if the decision is made, hopefully that turns out well for us and we're excited. We'll have to wait and see. I don't know if any decision has been made as far as whether he's going to do that or not. Obviously, he's a special talent and the more opportunities he has to touch the ball, that bodes well for us."

McAdoo made it clear he would make no announcement regarding the identity of the team's punt returner against the Steelers prior to the game.

Beckham assumed that duty in Cleveland because Dwayne Harris was given the day off while returning from assorted injuries, and Bobby Rainey muffed a punt, leading to three points for the Browns.

Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn followed McAdoo's lead when he was asked today about Beckham.

"He is an explosive player," Quinn said. "Anytime he gets his hands on the ball – he has returned for us in the past, he is a punt returner, so he did that as a regular job when he first came in the league. He did it in college as a kickoff returner, punt returner and a receiver, so that was one thing that attracted him to us when we were evaluating him in the draft."

The Giants are averaging 6.8 yards a return, which ranks 25th in the NFL.

"We need better production from our punt return game," Quinn said. "We have to make better decisions. We had two big returns last week called back due to penalties, so we have to be smarter there."

The Giants also must consider that Beckham is their leading receiver with 65 catches for 915 yards, and eight touchdowns. Even if the Giants played it safe and signaled for a fair catch on every punt, Beckham is capable of quickly putting points on the board.

Brown is essentially the Steelers' Beckham. He leads the NFL with 82 receptions and is tied for first with 10 touchdown catches. His 998 receiving yards rank third. But Brown also leads the team with 10 punt returns for 107 yards. As a team, the Steelers have averaged 9.8 yards a return.

Will Beckham get the chance to be the Giants' Brown on punt returns? Quinn indicated the decision will not be made solely with Beckham in mind.

"It is based on Dwayne," Quinn said. "He is our punt returner, so it is based on his health and the other guys that we have available. I give my input and we talk about it as a staff and what is best for the team that game."

And we won't know what the answer to that is until Sunday.

*Three Giants did not practice today: safety Nat Berhe (concussion), linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion) and defensive end Owa Odighizuwa (knee). Three players, all offensive linemen, were limited: Justin Pugh (knee), Marshall Newhouse (knee) and Brett Jones (calf). Wide receiver Dwayne Harris (wrist) practiced fully.

Three Steelers missed practice: guard David DeCastro (illness), wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (foot) and running back De'Angelo Williams (knee).

*Soon after announcing that Landon Collins had been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month, the NFL tweeted that Collins is the first safety with 30+ tackles, 3+ interceptions, and a 1+ sack in a calendar month since Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins in 2006.

View the best photos from Thursday's practice, presented by Hospital for Special Surgery

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