The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Jordan Berry
Experience: 1 Year
Jordan Berry is just the latest in a string of punters that the Steelers have placed their hopes in dating back to the 2010 season, following the most recent ACL tear suffered by former fourth-round draft pick Daniel Sepulveda, which marked the end of the closest thing the team had to stability at the position in a while.
Between Sepulveda and Berry have been five other punters spanning the back half of the 2010 season as the former’s injury replacement to finally, Brad Wing, who was the Steelers’ punter in 2014 and was traded for a seventh-round draft pick at the conclusion of the preseason, spending 2015 punting for the Giants.
Circumstantially, both punters ultimately produced pretty mediocre results. Both the Steelers and Giants finished in just the top crust of the bottom third of the league in terms of net yards per punt, with Berry producing a net of 39.1 yards and Wing a net of 38.9 yards.
Wing’s average punt distance had a two-yard advantage over Berry’s, but the first-year Australian’s numbers elsewhere were more favorable than the second-year Australian’s. Despite more opportunities, Wing’s 76 punts only yielded the same number of fair catches, 21, as Berry netted in 59 attempts. Wing also recorded six touchbacks with 33 punts landing inside the 20, while Berry recorded just two touchbacks with a still very respectable 28 punts downed inside the 20.
19 of Berry’s punts were returned for a total of 165 yards, allowing an average return of just 8.7 yards, which is a quality ratio. Of course, much of the credit for the return yardage and fair catches induced has to go to the Steelers’ gunners, who have made their punters look better over the past few years.
The first-year punter certainly had his struggles, and in particular had a very rough game in the postseason against the Broncos, where he allowed a net of just 29.3 yards on six punts, including just one punt returned for 42 yards, as well as a touchback.
The Steelers will be looking for Berry to make a leap heading into his second season, which is evidently what they were not expecting to see from Wing based on his preseason performance, which prompted them to move him. They do believe he has the poise to build upon his shortcomings. Will he be the last stop on the punter carousel?