Now that training camp is finally upon us, it’s time to get closer to the finish line in the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series here at Steelers Depot.
After looking at the cornerbacks and safeties rooms in recent parts, today I’ll take a look at the specialists, meaning kickers, punters and long snappers.
There isn’t much change from last season to this season, aside from performance levels.
Let’s jump into it.
1. Baltimore Ravens
Arguably the best specialists duo in football in kicker Justin Tucker and punter Sam Koch returns for another season in Baltimore with the Ravens, giving long-time head coach John Harbaugh reliability on a very important unit to the Ravens’ success.
Tucker continues to be the best kicker in football, both in terms of accuracy and strength, while Koch puts up numbers each and every year, while excelling at direction kicks to help pin opponents deep against a strong Baltimore defense.
The Ravens did bring in undrafted free agent punter Kaare Vedvik to possibly push Koch in camp, but I can’t see the Marshall product beating out Koch for the job.
At long snapper, the Ravens have great stability there too with 10-year veteran Morgan Cox. The Ravens added undrafted free agent Matthew Orzech from Azusa Pacific. Much like Koch and Vedvik at punter, I simply can’t see Orzech beating out Cox, but if the Ravens were to try and save some money on the periphery of the roster, Cox would be the logical place to make a change.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite Chris Boswell’s major struggles last season, he’s still the second best kicker in the division, helping keep the Steelers in the number 2 slot heading into the 2019 season. I fully expect a bounce back season from Boswell. What I can’t see is undrafted free agent Matthew Wright out of Central Florida pushing Boswell. That said, I could see general manager Kevin Colbert making a trade late in camp for a new kicker if Boswell isn’t right.
At punter, Jordan Berry is as average as it gets, but that might be due a lot to what coordinator Danny Smith and head coach Mike Tomlin ask him to do in the punting game, which is punt directionally and away from danger. He needs to get much better though.
Long snapper Kameron Canaday appears to be a lock for the roster, barring injury. Trevor Wood isn’t going to give him much competition.
Overall, it’s a solid unit, at least on paper. The 2018 season was definitely a disappointment though.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
Much like the Ravens and Steelers, the Bengals bring back all three specialists for the 2019 season. Quietly, the trio put up a good 2018 season and should be able to build off of it.
Randy Bullock enters his ninth season in the league and has seen and done it all. He struggles with consistency at times, but he has a big leg and is durable.
Punter Kevin Huber did have a regression from 2017 to 2018 last season, losing nearly 3 full yards on his net average. That being said, he’s still a solid punter that’s entering his 11th season. He’s not able to flip the field as well as he once did for the Bengals in his prime, but he’s going to put the ball where it needs to go on punts, allowing the coverage unit ample opportunities to pin opponents deep.
Long snapper Clark Harris continues to push for Pro Bowl berths year after year. He’s as consistent as they come, which is all you can ask from a long snapper.
4. Cleveland Browns
One year after a rough go of things at the kicker’s position, the Browns appear to have upgraded on paper, adding former Oklahoma standout kicker Austin Seibert in the 2019 NFL Draft back in April.
Seibert should beat out incumbent Greg Joseph, who doesn’t have much leg strength at all and struggles with kicks 40 yards or more. Who knows how Seibert will perform in the NFL, but he was a standout in college with a big leg and great accuracy for a high-scoring offense.
Punter Britton Colquitt finished with strong numbers last season, but he was far to inconsistent week to week for the Browns as a punter, leaving the coaching staff wanting a bit more from the veteran.
Long snapper Charley Hughlett continues to be one of the more consistent long snappers in the AFC.
Last season’s rankings: