With just one preseason game now remaining for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018 the team still has two punters on their 90-man roster. Does this mean the punting job is still up in the air? It’s really quite possible that might be the case and especially if both punters, Jordan Berry and Matt Wile, are still on the roster come Thursday night when the Steelers host the Carolina Panthers in the team’s preseason finale.
In the Steelers third preseason game against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, incumbent punter Berry handled the first half punting and holding duties. He punted just twice with his first effort traveling 35 yards to the Titans 8-yard-line where it was effectively downed by cornerback Brian Allen. Berry’s second and final punt of Saturday’s game traveled 52 yards and was returned 5-yards by Adoree’ Jackson for a net of 47 yards.
As for Wile, who did not punt in the Steelers second preseason game against the Green Bay Packers so that he could showcase his kickoff and place kicking abilities, he delivered three second half punts against the Titans that traveled 58, 41, and 47 yards, respectively. The final two punts were fielded inside the Titans 20-yard-line with the first resulting in no return yardage and the second a loss of 6 yards. Wile’s 58-yard effort was returned 7 yards to the Titans 26.
Perhaps the Steelers punting battle is close enough right now to warrant it coming down to Thursday night against the Panthers. Additionally, perhaps the Steelers think they can get a late-round draft pick for either Berry or Wile this next week just as they did a few years ago when they traded punter Brad Wing to the New York Giants after Berry beat him out during the 2015 preseason.
The Steelers will want to rest quite a few players Thursday night against the Panthers so it would make sense for them to maybe sign another tight end or offensive lineman and release one of the two punters if the competition has already been decided.
Should the Steelers ultimately choose to go with Wile instead of Berry this year, they would save a little bit of salary cap space in the process. Wile is scheduled to earn just $555,000 in 2018 should he make the 53-man roster this year while Berry is set to earn $1.907 million in 2018 after being given a low-level restricted tender earlier in the offseason. That’s a cool cap savings of $1.352 million should Wile be the choice.
After the Steelers preseason game against the Packers, head coach Mike Tomlin indicated that Berry needs to be more consistent. That was a clear sign that his job for the 2018 season is far from safe. If Wile is still on the roster Thursday night and outperforms Berry against the Panthers, he might just end up being the team’s punter to start the season. It goes without saying that it will now be interesting to see how the rest of the upcoming week ultimately transpires at that positiion.