With spring drills officially over, I think we all understand that we’re all in for a long haul, six weeks in total, between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp. You know the drill. There’s little new information coming out during this period, so it serves as the perfect time both to look back, and to look ahead.
We’re going to be focusing mostly on the latter as we prepare—ever so patiently, of course—for training camp. The Pittsburgh Steelers right now have a fairly young roster with inexperienced players that they are hoping to take on a bigger role. The problem is that in many cases, they are still waiting on those players to show them something, and that is the focus of that series—as well as the occasional veteran with lingering questions.
Show me something, Jordan Berry.
There is perhaps no person on this list from whom it is more crucial to their position group that he shows something significant during this offseason and into the season than second-year punter Jordan Berry, who is coming off an up-and-down first-year campaign that ended on a decidedly down note.
Berry was in competition with Brad Wing, a player very much then in the position that Berry now finds himself in, having failed to win a job as a rookie, but catching on the following year after an up-and-down season. when the Steelers found an opportunity to net a seventh-round pick to trade Wing, they were content to go into the season with Berry.
While the Australian had an excellent ratio of punts inside the 20-yard line to touchbacks—only two of the latter during the regular season, one of which was more or less intentional—there were many other issues of his performance that leave open the question of whether or not he can develop the consistency that assures long-term job stability.
And if there is one single thing that the Steelers have absolutely not had at the punter position over the course of the last several years, it has been stability. To put that into perspective, they have had a different punter from Australia on the roster in each of the past three seasons. And that’s the top of the unstable iceberg.
Berry’s hang time was much too variable last season, one area in which Wing had bested him in training camp, and that certainly needs to become more consistent. To make up for the hang time, he often lacked distance, which allowed his gunners to get down the field, but which obviously resulted in a lower gross punting average.
In general, the coverage unit was pretty good, and that has really been the lone saving grace of the punt team over the past several seasons. If Berry can’t find the consistency this offseason that will put the coaches’ trust in him, then they might just spin the punter merry go round once again and land on rookie free agent punter Will Monday instead.