The only thing Mike Tomlin has gone through more than his famous “Tomlin-isms” are punters. Over the last five seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have ushered in seven different ones.
Here’s your lineup: Daniel Sepulevda, Jeremy Kapinos, Drew Butler, Zoltan Mesko, Mat McBriar, Brad Wing, and Jordan Berry. That’s an NBA starting lineup, a 6th man, and someone to hand out towels. I think that group could beat the 76ers.
Not all of the turnover was due to poor performance. Heck, had it not been for Sepulevda’s balky knees, he could still be booting it in the ‘burgh today. But after him, the Steelers have found zero consistency with the position.
Could another new face emerge in 2016? History is obviously on its side. And should it repeat, that man is likely to be Will Monday.
Monday was one of the ten free agents brought in by the team after the draft. There was no question the Steelers had to bring someone in, Berry was the only one on the roster, so the signing alone shouldn’t be viewed as a lack of confidence in last year’s starter. But Monday has an impressive college career.
After redshirting in 2011, Monday took the league by storm in his first year, named to First Team All-ACC by his coaches. It was statistically his best season in terms of average, 44.6 yards per punt, including a long – which he’d never exceed in his career – of 79 yards. Because the Internet is a beautiful place, we have a clip of it. And boy, is this one impressive.
His next two seasons were nearly as solid and he ended 2015 with his second-best average, 43.4 yards per attempt. Over his junior and senior seasons, a shade under one-third of his punts were fair caught and a ridiculous 38.7% were pinned inside the 20. In addition, he served as the Blue Devils’ holder for all four seasons, a task he’ll have to undertake should he win the starting job. Familiar territory for him, no doubt.
He even got the chance to unleash his arm, throwing the football five times in his career. He completed a whopping four of them. The only one I can seem to find though is his lone incompletion.
Certainly not a bad throw by any means. He’ll mesh well with Berry, who famously succeeded in completing the punt-pass in college.
Back to punting. In his career, Monday averaged 43.5 yards per punt and was named to the ACC’s All-Conference team each season. He wasn’t drafted but special teams expert Chuck Zodda told me after the draft that he envisions Monday having the ability to start within the next one to two years.
Berry’s rookie season was far from horrible. Statistically, he was the league’s best “pin deep punter” in 2015 in a study conducted by Zodda. But consistency was fleeting and he had his share of junior varsity punts while seeming to hit the rookie wall at the end of the year, especially struggling in the Divisional loss to Denver.
This might be the most formidable competition an incumbent has had to face in several seasons. Berry certainly has the ability to become a very good punter, but the competition is wide open. Monday’s resume is impressive.
And it could parlay itself into Monday, brace yourself for the groans people, starting on Sunday’s.