The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: Jordan Berry
Experience: 3 Years
Believe it or not, but the Steelers’ success with punters is so bad that Jordan Berry’s three consecutive seasons played with the team (without injury) is the longest period Pittsburgh has seen with one punter since Chris Gardocki finished out his career with three seasons here from 2004 to 2006.
There was Daniel Sepulveda in between, who was drafted in 2007 (in the fourth round, and they traded up for him), and he did last until 2011, but he missed the 2008 season with a knee injury and, well, frequently had knee injuries.
The last real long-term player that the Steelers had at the position was Josh Miller, who was their punter from 1996 to 2003. Following Gardocki was Mitch Berger, Jeremy Kapinos, Drew Butler, Zoltan Mesko, Mat McBriar, and finally Brad Wing before they landed on Berry in 2015.
None of those players more than 16 games with the team. Berry needs two more games to become the sixth punter in team history to play 50 regular-season games with the Steelers. Sepulveda played 52 as the most recent. Miller is one of two who played over 100 games, the other being Bobby Walden, who was a Pro Bowler, and I think the only punter in team history to do so.
I’m not saying that Berry is going to be a Pro Bowler, but he has at least proven to be a developmental player capable of reaching an adequate level of success and stability, which is something that the Steelers have lacked for over a decade prior to his arrival.
His best season came in 2016. He posted not only a 45.6-yard gross average, his 40.2-yard net average is the longest in team history, and the only one over 40 yards. Last year, he also punted to a net average of 39.8 yards, the second-longest. As a first-year player in 2015, he posted a 39.1-yard net average, tied for the third-longest with Sepulveda.
But when you compare him to the rest of the league and how the position has evolved with the times, he is still fairly average, but as I said, developing. He is improving his directional kicking, for example, which is more important than having a big leg, and he has one of the lowest percentages of punts returned. Only 70 of 191 career punts have been returned, including just 23 of 64 punts in 2017.