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: If Jordan Berry plays well through the rest of the year, he will be the Steelers’ punter in 2021 as well.
Explanation: After five years with the team, the Steelers released Berry earlier this year to sign veteran Dustin Colquitt, but they cut ties with him after five games with the team ranked last in net punting yardage. They re-signed Berry, who played on Sunday, but the fact that he was let go to begin with is not a great sign for his future beyond this season.
Berry has improved overall year after year, even if the end of this 2019 season was plagued by some baffling moments. The fourth-down failure was not his fault, since he never got the audible call, however, and mishandling one punt in 300-plus attempts over a five-year span is nothing to raise alarms over.
The thing is, his numbers are shaped by what the Steelers ask him to do, and that is hangtime and directional kicking, which is a safer avenue than distance, but has less boom potential (high net yardage) as a tradeoff for less bust potential (return scores).
Berry has been good enough for five years. If he plays well this year, there is no reason for them to expend resources on a position that should largely be an afterthought, which is the only way they would be able to upgrade him, unless they get lucky on an undrafted free agent.
The only reason that Berry is back in Pittsburgh is because the man they sought to replace him with failed, and teams are really anxious this season to work with people they are familiar with due to the pandemic. Teams are also limited in the number of players they can try out per week.
Under ordinary circumstances, the Steelers would have brought in at least three punters during the week to work out and would have signed whoever did the best job relative to their criteria. Berry is the devil you know, but he won’t survive beyond this year unless he suddenly has a year notably better than any he has ever had in the past, which is rather unlikely.