With the conclusion of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie minicamp, the front office naturally elected to do some roster tweaking after getting a better feel for some of the young players that they brought in.
An undrafted rookie leaves the squad here, a couple of tryout players get signed to the roster there, the usual fare for this time of year. Many of the transactions had everything to do with positional numbers, as was the case with the two tryout players getting signed.
Two other players got the axe on Monday, however, because they were no longer useful after serving their purpose over the weekend. Those two players were vestigial special teams players, punter Richie Leone and long snapper Brandon Hartson.
Leone, a first-year player who originally signed with the Ravens last year as an undrafted free agent, was signed by the Steelers as a futures player in January. Hartson, also a first-year player, signed with the Chiefs in the hopes of vying for an open long snapping job.
The Steelers made their move early this offseason to re-sign veteran long snapper Greg Warren before he even hit free agency, and it’s clear beyond a doubt that Hartson was never brought in to provide legitimate competition.
That is not the case at punter, however, where the incumbent is second-year player Brad Wing, who had a rather shaky first season in the NFL. The Steelers did sign Leone to provide competition, but they also later added a third punter, Jordan Berry, which meant that at least one of them would be expendable between now and training camp.
So what was the glowing feature on the resumes of these players that got them on the Steelers’ roster? It’s quite simple, really: they were eligible to participate in a rookie minicamp, and the team needed players who can long snap and punt.
Now that that period of the offseason is out of the way, Pittsburgh was able to swab the deck and advance with the special teams pieces that they were most interested in. So it’s of no, significance, then, that Hartson was released, but it is interesting that Leone is the punter who was chosen to turn in his playbook.
Evidently, the Steelers are more comfortable in Berry being the player more likely to provide Wing a challenge during training camp and the preseason this year, at the very least pushing their young punter to improve and become more consistent during his second season.
Berry, like Wing, is a native Australian, continuing a quirky trend for the Steelers. Should Berry win the starting job, he would be the third consecutive Australian-born punter to start for the Steelers, following Mat McBriar during the 2013 season.
One potential issue that Wing had during his rookie season, in my observation, was some difficulty serving as the holder for Shaun Suisham on field goal attempts. We know of the famously botched hold against the Ravens that he managed to turn into a two-point conversion pass, but that was not the only foible.