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 pessimistic side of the coin.
Question: Could the Steelers go through a second season with Brad Wing as the punter?
As I covered during the corresponding optimistic side of this devil’s advocate piece, to clear things up from the start, there is no need to be pessimistic about the mere fact that the Steelers signed Brad Wing to a one-year exclusive rights free agent contract.
There is virtually, if not literally, no harm in doing so. It merely means that he will most likely participate in the Steelers’ offseason program and likely compete for the punting job. If he doesn’t win said punting job, then Wing’s contract will be terminated, and it will not count on the books. It’s a no-risk move that would have made no sense not to make.
The pessimist’s take, naturally, creeps in when considering the prospects of Wing actually emerging victorious—or at least as the last man standing—in the anticipated punting position battle during training camp and the preseason.
Wing, after all, didn’t perform very well during the preseason a year ago, but there were no other punters in camp, and he came out with the job by default, without even any good alternatives emerging from the waiver wire after the final roster cuts had been made.
Admittedly, Wing’s net punting averaging was a slight improvement over what the Steelers got last year, but his overall yards per punt was still substantially sub-par. The frequency of shanked or short punts was also a concern.
Of concern were even his ability to hold on point after attempts and field goals—and certainly his ability to throw the football and make smart decisions in that role. But that’s more on the coordinator and not the player, because he’s here to punt.
Has Wing showed in the past that he has the talent to punt in this league? Perhaps. Has he shown the potential to develop the consistency that would allow him to keep a job in this league? That is what remains to be seen. Either way, he is likely to have much stiffer competition this year.