Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: P Corliss Waitman
Stock Value: Purchased
The veteran Jordan Berry is heading into his sixth NFL season. It’s almost hard to imagine, perhaps for multiple reasons. For one thing, his tenure was preceding by a carousel of punters that included Zoltan Mesko, Brad Wing, Mat McBriar, Drew Butler, and Jeremy Kapinos. Daniel Sepulveda, a former fourth-round pick, preceded them, but a number of knee injuries ended his career prematurely.
In other words, Berry has been the first whiff of stability at punter for years. But he hasn’t necessarily been anything great, either. Even in his best years, his numbers are middling in comparison to what other kickers around the league are doing in today’s game.
As Alex Kozora has tirelessly pointed out, some of this could be attributed to organizational philosophy, prioritizing short or no returns over distance in the hope of preventing big plays, and largely, this strategy has been successful from that perspective, as least when penalties that should be called are called.
But there’s a reason every year fans are looking for a challenger to Berry, and this year, it’s Corliss Waitman out of South Alabama. Already 24 years old, Waitman had to…wait for this opportunity after having a sixth year of eligibility denied last year, meaning that he did not play in 2019.
He does have some workable traits. He doesn’t put a lot of kicks into the end zone, for one thing. His punting average was solid, as were the percentage of his punts that landed inside the 20-yard line. But his directional kicking and ability to get distance from out of his own end zone need work.
The former is not one of Berry’s issues, which is important. The latter, however, very much is. The Steelers have had a number of instances in recent years in which Berry failed to flip the field, probably the biggest criticism against him people have had.
But Berry somehow manages to punt better in the preseason, even when he has solid contenders. Ian Berryman did alright for himself last year. Matt Wile has ended up punting for a few teams, though he’s currently a free agent.