Player: Brad Wing
Experience: 1 Year
Free Agent Status: Exclusive Rights
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $420,000
2014 Season Breakdown: Brad Wing was the latest member of the Steelers’ punter roulette that has lasted for the better part of the last decade. The team had three different punters on the 53-man roster at some point during the 2013 season alone.
Wing, at least, lasted from the beginning of the offseason to the end of the playoffs for the Steelers, so that is at least progress. But that was perhaps because he only won the punting job by default.
Pittsburgh signed Wing during the winter to a futures contract, but during the spring, they signed veteran punter Adam Podlesh to a one-year contract, who was obviously going to compete with Wing for the punting job, and was perhaps in the driver’s seat, due to his pedigree and experience.
Of course, we already know how this story unfolded. Podlesh’s wife had a complicated pregnancy, during which she nearly lost the lives of both her child and herself. Football was the last thing on Podlesh’s mind, and needless to say, he was never even able to report.
The Steelers never brought in additional competition for Wing, who did not even fare particularly well during the preseason, but he survived the final cuts—and the waiver wire, which the Steelers’ last punter did not—and spent the year punting for the Steelers.
Not that he did so particularly well, or with consistency, to be more accurate. Wing’s average yards per punt in his first season in the league ranked 31st at 43.7 yards. His net average showed improvement, ranking 21st at 38.8 yards on his 61 punts.
While a fair amount of his punts were downed or fair caught, that had a lot to do with him getting a lot of quality play out of the Steelers’ gunner positions on the punt coverage units this past year.
While some in the organization believe that he showed improvement over the course of the season, he did have a number of poor punts that seem to stick out in my memory that left the opposition with good field position.
Free Agency Outlook: One thing is clear: Wing’s job is probably not going to be safe. While it’s likely that he will be tendered as an exclusive rights free agent—the Steelers really have nothing to lose in doing so—he certainly hasn’t locked down the job and made himself Pittsburgh’s punter of the future.
That is something that the Steelers haven’t had in quite a while. They thought that they might have had that in Daniel Sepulveda after they drafted him in the fourth round, but his career was grounded due to injuries.
Wing will likely get a chance to earn a second season, but he will obviously have a lot harder time winning the job this summer. It may even be Podlesh once again attempting to claim the position that may have been his.