For the fourth time this season, Pittsburgh Steelers first-year punter Brad Wing allowed less than 10 yards in return yards with a 40+ yard net average in a game in which he has attempted at least three punts.
Those include the two most recent games, with Wing punting four times on Monday night against the Houston Texans. He averaged 44 yards on his punts—identical to his current season average—while posting a net average of 43.8 yards. Three of his punts were downed by his gunners, while one was returned for one yard.
That also included two punts downed inside the 20-yard line, of which a full third of his 33 punts on the year have been—versus three touchbacks, one of which came on a 70-yard punt.
Just 12 of those punts have been returned, a ratio that ranks favorably amongst the rest of the league, for a total of 98 yards—nearly half of which came against the Baltimore Ravens, which is somewhere toward the middle of the league.
It took Wing a while to finally establish himself during the preseason this year, despite getting all of the playing time due to the fact that Adam Podlesh, the other punter the team had signed, was going through a difficult child birth. It wasn’t really until the last preseason game that it was really that certain he would make the team, even with no competition.
No doubt, the young Australian has continued to battle some inconsistency through the early portions of his career in the regular season as well. He averaged just 37 yards with a 29.8-yard net on four punts against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But that was the only game thus far this season in which he hasn’t punted a ball over 50 yards, and he’s had 18 punts either downed, fair caught, or sent out of bounds, with 15 punts either returned or sent for a touchback.
I wrote earlier during this season that Wing must strive to seek week-to-week consistency in his game, because he is showing that he has enough talent to make it a career in this league with his leg, if only he can continually replicate his delivery like a Mariano Rivera.
I go back to the fact that Wing has posted a net average of over 40 yards while allowing 10 return yards or less in a game four times this season. If he can manage to do that consistently, then maybe he’ll have some job security. But even on one of his better nights, as Monday night was, he still threw in a 35-yard punt from his own 39-yard line. He needs to clean out the JV punts from his arsenal.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt when your gunners make your job easier, which is what Antwon Blake and Ross Ventrone were able to do for him against the Texans, and as Shamarko Thomas will continue to do when he returns from injury.