Season Of Change – Stepping Up From JV Punters

After two straight seasons of equivalent wins and losses, it’s certainly no surprise that the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been busier and more active than usual in their efforts to reshape a middling roster into a true competitor.

The past few months could be fairly described as a season of change amid the shifting fates of a franchise that had just been to the Super Bowl three times in the very recent past. It may well be that past success that has helped drag them down of late.

Of course, selecting late in the draft annually doesn’t help, nor do the big contracts going out to the players that helped you reach that success. But the true death knell has been an unwillingness to recognize when to let go.

The Steelers had hoped to hold together that championship core for a while longer, but the last two seasons have been the wake-up call necessary to introduce the wave of change that we’ve seen this offseason, designed to steer the organization back in the right direction.

If there’s any individual position on the Steelers’ roster that is desperately in need of overhaul above all others, I suppose it would have to be the punter.

And the team is prepared to make that change, considering that all four of the punters that spent any time in Pittsburgh last season is either unemployed or with another team.

Then-second-year punter Drew Butler defeated veteran Brian Moorman in training camp a year ago, but was released in order to make room for Zoltan Mesko, who once upon a time was a talented punter.

The Steelers discovered through firsthand experience that that is no longer the case, and they released him mid-season, signing another veteran punter, Mat McBriar, to replace him.

In truth, the Australian fared little better overall, though he did complete his one pass attempt. But as indicated by the fact that he is currently out of a job, his overall performance was deemed unsatisfactory.

The Steelers have brought in another Australian who hopes to take over the position, but he too will face a veteran punter in order to win the job.

Brad Wing was an award-winning punter in college who put up his fair share of impressive figures when it comes to the position, but his off-field concerns left many teams giving him the cold shoulder. I don’t suppose there have been too many punters over the years considered undraftable because of character concerns. Still, he found his way to a camp as an undrafted rookie last year, but could not stick around into the regular season.

He has since had a child and believes that he has matured significantly. Losing out on a job last season has also served as a wakeup call for him to get his mind focused and his life back on the course he set for himself when he moved to this country to pursue a career in football.

But he will not simply be handed the job. The Steelers signed free agent Adam Podlesh to compete with him. While the depth of his punts tend to leave much to be desired, few of them are actually returned. He has had to battle with inconsistency since a 2012 hip injury, but he seems ready to compete to resume his career, starting today.

Whoever wins the job, here’s to hoping that he is worthy of the coverage of some of the quality special teamers the Steelers have lying around this year, and here’s to hoping that special teams will finally be a strength for this team.

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