After a long slog through each position group in the “Ranking the Rooms: AFC North” series here at Steelers Depot, we’ve finally reached the end of the series, where we’ll take a look at the specialists in the division today.
In the last installment, I looked at safeties in the AFC North and determined that the Baltimore Ravens have the best safeties room in the division, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. Baltimore Ravens
It’s hard to argue against Justin Tucker as the best kicker in football, and possibly one of the best kickers of all-time in the NFL.
Scoff at that if you must, but Tucker is as automatically as it comes in today’s game and is as accurate as anyone in the history of the NFL when it comes to kicking field goals.
All Baltimore has to do is cross midfield and they’re in range for Tucker. That says something about him as a kicker.
At punter, Baltimore employs the consistent Sam Koch, who averaged 45.9 yards per punt during the 2016 season and dropped 37 kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line for the Ravens.
Sometimes special teams can be overlooked, but with the Ravens, it happens to be a serious strength for a struggling offense.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Chris “The Boz” Boswell has really grown into a great kicker in the NFL after taking over midway through the 2015 season for the Steelers following a tryout.
Since joining the Steelers, Boswell has missed just seven field goals in 57 attempts, while hitting 62-of-63 extra points over the last two seasons.
During his time in Pittsburgh, Boswell set a Steelers’ record for most fields goals made by a rookie/first-year player in a single regular season with 29 in 2015, while also setting the team record for most points (113) by a rookie/first-year player.
His second season wasn’t as great, but he was still as consistent throughout the year as any kicker in football.
The Steelers found a gem at kicker thanks to a mid-season tryout after two failed attempts to replace Shaun Suisham.
At punter, after a rough year in 2015, Jordan Berry emerged as a game-changing fourth-down option, averaging 45.6 yards-per-punt while dropping 25 kicks inside the 20-yard line.
Berry has a very strong leg and routinely flipped the field for the Steelers as a punter.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
A few years removed from Mike Nugent holding down the top kicker’s spot for the Bengals, Cincinnati is now in a state of flux at the position with Randy Bullock looking to replace Nugent, while the Bengals drafted Jake Elliott out of Memphis and brought in first-year player Jonathan Brown to compete for the starting job.
During the 2016 season, the Bengals were a disaster in the kicking game, so it’s important for them to right the ship in that department.
At punter, incumbent Kevin Huber (Terrance Garvin sends his regards, Kevin) returns for a 10th season in Cincinnati. The veteran averaged 46.3 yards per punt in 2016, while dropping 23 punts inside the 20-yard line.
4. Cleveland Browns
There might not be a worse kicking situation in the NFL right now than Cleveland, but good news for Browns fans: Zane Gonzalez has the talent to be one of the better kickers in football in a few years.
All he has to do is beat out Cody Parkey.
Last season, Parkey was hit-or-miss, costing the Browns a few games during the year while going 20-for-25 for Cleveland.
Gonzalez was the top kicker in the draft after winning the 2016 Lou Groza Award for the best kicker in college football, while holding six FBS records for kicking, finishing his career as the all-time FBS leader in field goals made (96) and points by a kicker (494).
At punter, Britton Colquitt returns for another season in Cleveland.
Coming from the punting family of football, Britton averaged 45.3 yards per punt last season, while dropping 22 kicks inside the 20-yard line, which mirrored his career average throughout his eight years in the NFL.