Jordan Berry is in his first NFL season.
But don’t tell that to Danny Smith.
“I tell him he’s not a rookie anymore. He’s played in five preseason games. He’s played in 15 regular season games. That’s 20 damn games. That ain’t a rookie,” the special teams’ coach told Bob Labriola in this week’s Coaches’ Speak With the Coordinators.
Even if he isn’t a rookie in the coaches’ eyes, he’s still a young player. And like anyone in that position, the consistency isn’t quite there.
Still, Smith was quick to praise Berry.
“He’s a good player. He really is. He’s a very talented guy. We gotta get a level of consistency with him…but his capabilities are quite strong.”
Berry is averaging a gross of 42.1 yards on his 56 punts in 2015 with a net of 39. Smith has previously stated a 40 yard net is the magic number he looks for in a punter.
Berry has done an excellent job of not allowing punt returns. Opposing teams have had just two punt returns over the last six games, totaling three yards. That’s a credit to the coverage unit, including Shamarko Thomas’ tackle on the Baltimore Ravens’ lone return Sunday, which Smith praised in the interview with Labriola.
Six of his last 11 punts have landed inside the 20. That’s a credit to Berry for avoiding touchbacks but also a nod to a Steelers’ offense that is moving the ball and letting Berry have some easier opportunities to do so.
The Steelers may not be completely stable at punter as they were several years ago with Daniel Sepulevda, but they’re arguably as close with Berry as they’ve been since then.