You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.
In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.
When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.
Topic: Is Jordan Berry going to be the long-term solution at the punter position?
It has been a long, long, long time since the Steelers have had any semblance of stability at the punter position. Their current punter, Jordan Berry, is the first to even make it beyond one full season in years, and you would have to go back comfortably over a decade to find their last long-term solution.
That would be Josh Miller, who punted for the Steelers from 1996 through 2003, eight seasons being the longest that anybody has punted in Pittsburgh since Bobby Walden from 1969 to 1978.
The last time they took a real stab at finding their answer was in 2007 when they used a fourth-round pick—that they traded up for—to select Daniel Sepulveda. But he only lasted five seasons, and that through multiple serious injuries that ended his career. His 43.7-yard average is the second best in team history amount punters with at least 200 punts.
It would be fair to point out, however, that Berry through two seasons is averaging 44.2 yards per punt on 127 punts, the third-most in team history among those with at least 100 punts. He averaged a very respectable 45.6 yards per punt this past year.
But though his 40.2-yard net average was an improvement over his first season, it was still average among today’s punters, ranking 16th. Brad Wing, their previous punter from 2014, finished 10th with a 40.9-yard net average.
To be fair, everybody from 10th to 18th finished within a yard of each other. Even the sixth-best average was within a yard and a half of Berry’s, but over 60-plus punts, that adds up. Only one punter averaged at least 45 yards.
One also has to consider that Berry did have one punt blocked, and only two punters ahead of him did, so that can skew the numbers a bit.
Still, he did not make as much progress from year one to year two as I and many others were expecting. He still needs to work on his hang time. He doesn’t hit punts as deep as he should when he has a long field to work with. His directional punting has improved, but still must get better. Will he show that improvement, and the signs of being the long-term answer, in 2017?
Which side do you lean closer toward?