Whenever you guys comment on an article with some variety of ‘enough already’ with a particular topic, I know what you’re really clamoring for, and that’s specialist news. This year, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least on paper and in theory, have competition going for both their kicker and punter positions.
During his pre-game press conference yesterday, head coach Mike Tomlin could not provide an update as to the state of the battle for either position, but he did at least offer the approach that he would take for the third preseason game.
Over the course of the first two games, Tomlin has chosen to alternate players, kick for kick. Chris Boswell would kick a field goal. Matthew Wright would kick an extra point. Jordan Berry would punt. Then Ian Berryman would go. Back and forth, back and forth, until the game ended.
“We’re going halves this week”, however, he said. “We’ve been going every other kick. We want to give them an opportunity to gain some rhythm and see how they’re able to deliver when they’re making back-to-back-like kicks or plays. So in kicking and in punting, we’ll divide the work up by halves”.
He added, “I wouldn’t read much into who goes first”.
Practically speaking, however, one has to think that the kicking competition is pretty much over as long as Boswell, the incumbent, doesn’t slip up. He had a miserable season a year ago, but he has a Pro Bowl-level resume for his career prior to that, and they liked what they have seen from him throughout this offseason. He was clearly the better kicker in training camp.
The punting battle has not been so clear, and that’s not necessarily good for either one of them. The truth is that neither Berry nor Berryman have done much to distinguish themselves, and each have had a couple of bad punts already through two preseason games.
I believe Tomlin did the halves approach during the 2015 preseason when Berry ended up beating out Brad Wing for the punting job. I think I prefer that halves approach over going kick for kick, as you get a better feel for what the player can do over the course of a game.
What I wonder is if Tomlin would consider switching things up. Boswell has worked with Berry, and Wright has worked with Berryman. I don’t think they want to tinker with Boswell’s rhythm, but what if Berryman ends up winning the punting job?
I’m simply hoping to see both punters do better than they have over the course of the final two preseason games, because neither one of them so far has looked like a keeper, whether it’s Berry’s short kicks and low hangtimes that allow returns or Berryman’s lack of touch, leading to touchbacks and short kicks while angling to the sideline.