With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Up for Grabs: Starting Job
In the Mix: Jordan Berry, Corliss Waitman
If we look at this realistically, there isn’t much chance at all that somebody other than Jordan Berry is going to be the Steelers’ punter this season. For one thing, he has already been here for five years, and he has actually had some reasonable competition a time or two. When he got here, he beat out Brad Wing, for example, whom the Steelers were able to trade to the New York Giants for a seventh-round pick.
Even outside of a rough end to the season last year, which including him muffing a punt exchange that was recovered by the return team, and on another occasion failing to hear that a fake punt had been called off, he still had one of his better seasons in 2019, including a 45.5-yard gross average.
But when you look at his numbers compared to what the average NFL punter is doing right now, his numbers come out typically average at best. He is not an irreplaceable player at the punting position, even if the circumstances of the offseason put a greater emphasis on stability, and you don’t want to be changing your holder without a preseason, for example.
But does that mean that Corliss Waitman has no chance of making the team? No. It may be unlikely, but he is on the roster, so he has a chance. As long as he gets to kick the ball around some, he will have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot.
While the preseason is a valuable barometer for any position, you can still tell a lot about a punter by the way he performs in practice. That is especially true for a team like the Steelers, which values placement and hangtime over distance.
Truth be told, hangtime, especially consistency with hangtime, is an area in which Berry falls a bit short, so that could be one area in which Waitman can impress special teams coordinator Danny Smith. In an unusual season, the fact that he has a kicking background is to his advantage as well.