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: The Steelers must bring in legitimate competition for Jordan Berry.
Explanation: There are arguments to be made as to the quality of Jordan Berry’s season, but one thing cannot be denied: he has never had this much work before. In a season riddled with offensive woes, the fifth-year Aussie punted 74 times. He had only come within fewer than 10 punts of hitting that number once in his first four seasons.
The Steelers had a revolving door at punter for years before they settled on Jordan Berry, but the reality is that he is still below the league averages when you look at his numbers. He did post a career high in net punting average on the season at 40.9, admittedly, and that still has to be acknowledged.
But that’s still well below the standards. His average ranked 21st in the NFL last season, or 19th among starting punters. Nine ‘starting’ punters averaged at least a full yard per yard more than he did, with the top four all topping 44 yards per punt net.
The argument in favor of his numbers is that he kicks to Danny Smith’s scheme. But if the Steelers had a different punter, their scheme would be different. The problem is that he doesn’t have a big leg, nor great hangtime, and those issues limit the maximum range they can set for the coverage.
Some of Berry’s worst moments should be forgiven. The botched fake wasn’t his fault at all, since he couldn’t hear the audible out of it. As for the muffed snap and subsequent fumble, if we’re being honest, that wouldn’t have changed anything about the season.
The reality is that, aside from those two plays, Berry had the most consistent season of his career. He showed improvement. And that is the reason you stick with somebody year after year, to give them the chance to get better. He has, and he is. We don’t want to see the punter carousel return.