Last year, Pittsburgh Steelers punter Brad Wing essentially won the starting job at his position by being the last man standing, and not because he was overly impressive during training camp or the preseason slate of games.
It appears that the team wants to make sure that that doesn’t happen again, as, as of yesterday, they now have three punters on the roster.
After signing punter Richie Leone to a Reserve/Future contract following their elimination from the playoffs last season, the Steelers went out yesterday and signed yet another former undrafted punter from the class of 2014 who failed to catch on with a team by the name of Jordan Berry.
Like Wing, and like Mat McBriar before him, Berry, too, is a native Australian, which is apparently something that the front office finds interesting, given that they keep adding Australian punters to the roster.
McBriar, of course, was the third of three punters during the 2013 season, but was not re-signed later that offseason. Wing was signed, and later veteran punter Adam Podlesh was added via free agency to compete with the young Aussie with the big leg, but things didn’t work out as planned.
The background behind Podlesh’s wife’s labor troubles that nearly cost her and her child their lives has been discussed here before, so it does not need to be dredged up yet again beyond simply to say that it resulted in his inability to report to the team, which led to Wing getting the punting job by default.
But Wing’s first season as a starting punter in the league was not a very good one, albeit there were signs of potential for future growth. Clearly, however, it was not enough for the Steelers to feel comfortable in the security of the position in his hands, given their moves to add more than one leg to compete with him.
Wing’s punting was inconsistent, and he was liable to shank one every so often, but at least a band punt didn’t seem to affect his performance for the remainder of the game. His punting average was rather poor, but decent hang time and strong coverage gave him a middling net average.
While neither Leone nor Berry have certainly accomplished more at the professional level than has Wing—naturally, since they have yet to make a professional roster—both of them have had solid college careers, and should make for an interesting camp.
Of course, it would probably be surprising if the Steelers actually carry all three punters into training camp with them, or at least deep into training camp. I can’t remember the last time they might have had three punters on the roster, in fact. Likely, they will be competing now for two spots in July and August.
The alternative could be that one of either Wing or Leone is for some reason or another currently unable to perform football activities, which would necessitate a second leg for the offseason, but nothing has been reported in that regard, so for now, I would have to take this move as a sign that the Steelers want to challenge Wing’s status on the team.