The 2017 season is over and in the books, the Pittsburgh Steelers coming up far short of their goal. While they had a regular season record of 13-3, they went 0-1 in the postseason, and that will be the legacy of this previous campaign.
The task at hand is working toward improving that postseason record and assuring that it has a zero in the loss column instead of the win column. We can take a position-by-position look at how they can work toward that goal based on their personnel.
Total Positional Figure: 4
Chris Boswell: One of the best kickers currently in the game, Chris Boswell expanded his repertoire this past season by adding range, making all of his four attempts from beyond 50 yards. While the team has not tested him with excessively long attempts nearing 60 yards, he already has the third-most makes from 50 or more in team history, two behind Jeff Reed and Gary Anderson. Anderson played nearly 200 games while Reed has played roughly three times as many games.
Jordan Berry: While not an exceptional punter, Jordan Berry has at least provided stability to a punting position for the Steelers that had become a carousel of inconsistency, both in performance and personnel, for over a decade prior to his arrival. He must improve his own consistency, however, in order to live up to today’s standards for the position.
Kameron Canaday: Unseating sixth-round draft pick Colin Holba in a training camp battle, Kameron Canaday took over for a veteran long snapper and generally had a quiet season, which is what you want. He will continue to work on his rapport with his fellow specialists to provide greater consistency in his snaps.
Matt Wile: Matt Wile has already been out of Michigan since 2015, which means that he has tried and failed to make an NFL roster for two seasons to date. He will get his third opportunity to do so, perhaps, with the Steelers. He actually was briefly on the Falcons, for one game, and the Cardinals, for three games, during the 2016 season. On those four games, he recorded 12 punts with a gross average of 46.1 and a net average of 43. Those are excellent numbers, but from a very finite sample size. One of his punts as blocked, and of the 11 that were not, a whopping seven of them were returned, suggesting that he has a big leg but without significant hangtime. He by necessity even did kicking duties in college at times. In fact, he was recruited as a kicker.
Offseason Strategy: Re-Sign Boswell, Use UDFAs To Provide Competition
The specialists are the last group left for us to talk about, and are also the group that rarely gets discussed. Generally, similar to the offensive line, the less you have to discuss them, chances are the better they’re doing.
The exception is when you have a kicker making a bunch of game-winning field goals, which is what Boswell did last year. While he is a restricted free agent, the team likely wants to get a long-term deal done, especially as the market for kickers inflates around them.
While Boswell seems locked in as a long-term answer, however, similar commitments have not been made for Berry or Canaday. Berry has been here for three years, but he can be unseated. He will be an unrestricted free agent next year as well.
As for Canaday, he had a rather unremarkable first season, but that doesn’t mean they won’t bring in competition for him. it’s not like he’s Greg Warren. He didn’t show up making tackles, and he did actually draw two penalties, after all.