The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t had a ton of stability at the punter position over for course of this decade. While the fact that they have managed to get through an entire season with the same player the last two years is a sad sign of improvement, the fact of the matter is that, since the start of the 2011 season, the team has employed seven different punters in a five-year span.
First-year Australian punter Jordan Berry has been the most recent, after ‘winning’ a preseason competition with incumbent then-second-year punter Australian punter Brad Wing, who was the successor to veteran Australian punter Mat McBriar, who was signed mid-season following the struggles of veteran non-Australian punter Zoltan Mesko, who was claimed off waivers after the final roster cuts to replace then-second-year incumbent punter Drew Butler, who also happened not to be Australian.
Still with me? Good, because we’re not quite done yet. That only takes us back to 2013. Butler was the Steelers’ punter in 2012, and would have been in 2013 had they not claimed Mesko, which turned out to be a bad decision. But he never would have been the punter in 2012 in the first place had he not won the spot by default due to the fact that Jeremy Kapinos was never able to get healthy.
Incidentally, Wing’s one-year stint with the Steelers also featured a victory by default after the team also signed veteran punter Adam Podlesh, a former 2007 fourth-round draft pick, who was never able to report after his wife suffered life-threatening complications during childbirth.
Finally, we use Podlesh to connect us all the way back to the 2011 season and the last sign of even remote stability from the punting position with the Steelers, because both he and Daniel Sepulveda, oddly, were drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Podlesh went first, to the Bears, and then feeling the pressure, Pittsburgh traded up to sign Sepulveda.
Long story short, however, the former decorated college punter had a sporadically impressive but injury-plagued career that featured a string of season-ending injuries. It was a season-ending injury midway through 2011 that brought Kapinos to the team, who punted to a 45-yard average during his half-season with the Steelers.
From Sepulveda to Kapinos in 2011, to Butler in 2012, to Mesko and McBriar in 2013, to Wing in 2014, we finally arrive at Berry in 2015. He has an opportunity to become the first punter to play for the Steelers in more than one regular season since Sepulveda now a half-decade, and a half dozen punters, ago.
But will he? And perhaps more importantly, should he?
In his first professional season, Berry registered a 42.6 yards per punt average on 59 punts, which was less than Wing, Butler, and Kapinos. His net 39.1-yard average was not terrible, and his touchback to punts downed inside the 20 ratio was quite favorable. Yet that has to be acknowledged as a product of the Steelers’ ability to get near midfield consistently. And he struggled the most in the postseason.
Considering that the team has had a carousel of punters without much success, perhaps it’s time to settle on one and let him progress and develop. But is Berry that guy? Is he good enough to offer a shot at a long-term solution? Or should they keep looking?