The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: All three of the Steelers’ specialists will be brought back for the 2019 season.
Explanation: The Steelers’ specialists had an off year last season—even Kameron Canaday had multiple holds in the same game—to the point where the team is hoping to bring serious competition against incumbents, kicker Chris Boswell and punter Jordan Berry, the former especially.
The fact that the Steelers didn’t use any draft picks on the specialist positions while needlessly doubling down on the inside linebacker position and splurging on an offensive lineman in the final two rounds can be said to be something of an endorsement in the belief that Boswell and Berry can still play. There were punters and kickers that could have been drafted, but Pittsburgh passed on them.
They did sign one of each afterwards as college free agents, and naturally they will enter camp as part of each respective position battle. At the moment, there are even three kickers on the 90-man roster, but we’ll see if all three of them make it to training camp.
Boswell had a pretty lousy season, but he wouldn’t be the first good kicker to have a bad year at some point in his career. There’s no reason he can’t play well again in the future. They already put his job up for grabs once and he won the competition. As for Berry, he net average would look a lot better if a long punt return for a score were officiated properly.
The names that they brought in at punter and kicker are not sexy at all, even within the specialist world. Punter Ian Berryman and kicker Matthew Wright were not necessarily the most distinguished among their peers.
But the specialist position more than any other doesn’t really rely on that. Just look at the Steelers’ own history at kicker, for example. Boswell was a guy who came out of nowhere, who replaced a guy who came out of nowhere, who replaced a guy who came out of nowhere.
And the fact of the matter is that Boswell still has a lot to prove. When even the coaches acknowledge that your problem is at least partly in your head, you have to do more to convince them than to just put a bunch of footballs through the uprights.
Aside from this, there is the reality that the team is still capable of making further moves from this point forward. If Boswell or Berry are struggling, we could even see the team make a trade for a new specialist during the preseason. Not that it worked out, but that’s how they got Josh Scobee. And they saw how a struggling specialist can play a role in derailing a playoff-bound season.