While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.
Question: Could the Steelers go through a second season with Brad Wing as the punter?
As decorated as Brad Wing may have been as a college player—for a punter, that is—he certainly didn’t have the debut season that surely both he and the Steelers were hoping for. Indeed, he may not have even been the punter the Steelers were hoping for.
You will recall, of course, that Wing was not the only punter the Steelers signed last offseason. In April, they agreed to a one-year veteran qualifying contract with veteran punter Adam Podlesh, but due to serious pregnancy complications, his priorities never made it to the football field and kept his focus on his wife and child.
Wing essentially backed into the punting job by default, yet the Steelers chose not to replace him—as they did the year before with Drew Butler—through the final roster cuts, though that may have been due to a limited selection.
Wing’s punting average ranked near the bottom of the league, reminiscent of the punter-go-round success from 2013, though his net average approached middle of the road. He showed that he could get off some long punts with his big leg, but he was also plagued with the “JV” punts that saw the Steelers change punters mid-season a year ago.
Both of those punters were veterans, however, and Wing’s career is just beginning—assuming he gets another chance. He has the potential to improve, and has already shown in college that he has talent. With the gunners that the Steelers have at his disposal, more consistency could produce a solid punt coverage unit.
One thing is important to be made clear: no matter what happens, there was no harm done in tendering Wing his exclusive rights one-year qualifying contract. If he doesn’t make the team, the Steelers are not on the hook for anything. And he certainly will not be going into training camp uncontested for a second time.