The Pittsburgh Steelers were trying out a couple of punters a week ago just after Head Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that he was not satisfied with the current level of play from the position—which meant that he was not happy with what he was getting from fourth-year veteran punter Jordan Berry over the course of the first two weeks of the 2018 regular season.
After struggling through the preseason, he posted a net average of just 37.1 yards in the season opener on seven punts, only three of which ended up inside the opponents’ 20. The following week, he barely posted a net average of 30 yards on five punts, which included a touchback. Two were returned for a total of 48 yards.
So it was critical for Berry to have a bounceback game of sorts, and it would be fair to say that he did. He punted five times in the game, posting a net average of 41.6 yards with a gross of 45.6 yards. While one went for a touchback, only one punt was returned for zero yards, and two were downed inside the 20.
“It was a good way to bounce back”, he told Chris Adamski yesterday. “Definitely still room for improvement to get to where I am capable of, where my past performance has been. But definitely good to sort of get back on track”.
Of the fact that the Steelers brought in punters to look at last week, he said, “you don’t get into this industry unless you are willing to expect that. You don’t get a job unless you have seen other people go through it. So you sort of expect it to happen at some stage if you had a bad run. And you’ve just got to come back and play well”.
He did play well, though it could have been better. His first punt went for 43 yards, but it came from the Steelers’ 16-yard line, leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to take over at their own 41. I understand that the team doesn’t want to outkick the coverage, but they ought to be able to flip the field better than that. His second punt also traveled 43 yards from the Steelers’ own 27 to the Buccaneers’ 30, fair caught there.
But he got better as the game wore on, including a highlight of a 40-yard boot from Tampa Bay’s 42. Darrius Heyward-Bey was able to down it on the two-yard line. He had another punt downed at the one from the 36, but it was wiped out due to a questionable penalty on Heyward-Bey. After the latter also added an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Berry sent a 56-yard punt into the end zone.
Just earlier than that, he and the rest of the team got a score when DeSean Jackson returned a 46-yard punt from the 17 all the way for a touchdown, but it was fortunately wiped out by a holding penalty. Had that hold not occurred, perhaps the Steelers would be trying out more punters this week.