The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the pessimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Will undrafted free agent Will Monday be a legitimate competitor for Jordan Berry at punter?
If the Steelers hope to find some sort of continuity at the punter position, then they will have to hope that Jordan Berry can build off of an inconsistent first season in the NFL. If they are hoping to provide him with competition, then it will be up to Will Monday, the 6’4” punter out of Duke who averaged 43.5 yards per punt over his career.
It’s unclear, frankly, which they might be leaning to more, if either is the case. Monday’s signing was necessary, after all, as the Steelers would need to have added a punter that is eligible to participate in the team’s rookie minicamp.
Prior to Saturday, when Monday was signed after the draft, Berry was the only punter on the roster, yet they already had two long snappers and three kickers, with one eligible to participate in the rookie camp from each category.
One interesting statistic for Monday is the fact that his punts have not been returns very often, and for not much yardage. Duke has allowed only 80 return yards on his punts over the course of the past two seasons, while Berry had 19 punts returned for 165 yards last year.
Berry, however, has already shown himself to be capable of having quality touch in critical areas, taking advantage of his opportunities to pin the opponent down inside their own 20-yard line, doing so 28 times last year while notching only one unintential touchback.
The fact of the matter is that the Steelers are desperate for stability, and the only way to achieve stability without a surefire option at punter is to give one time to develop at the NFL level. Pittsburgh has not done that in the past five years, evidently believing that they did not have the right player to develop.
Perhaps Berry can be that one that gets developed, after he improved the team’s net punting average from the previous season with Brad Wing, whom he beat out in training camp and was eventually traded. Both players had comparable seasons in 2015, but with time, with the superior touch, Berry could prove to be the better option, even if he is not a Pro Bowler.