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: Jordan Berry will beat out rookie seventh-round pick Pressley Harvin III and retain his punting job for the 2021 season.
Explanation: Jordan Berry has had a thoroughly average career during his six seasons with the Steelers, which resulted in his being released ahead of the season opener last year. He found his way back because his replacement, Dustin Colquitt, struggled too, but the team used a draft pick on a punter last month in Pressley Harvin III.
This was not a great class for punters, first of all. Harvin was the only one drafted, and there are certainly plenty of better punters who in previous years had to sign as free agents. He may have a big leg, but he, like Berry, suffers from inconsistency, and is prone to the occasional shank.
And Berry actually posted some of the best numbers of his career in 2020 after the Steelers brought him back—the best numbers in franchise history. They still fall within the middle range as far as modern punter performance goes, but there are some indications that he still has some life in him to grow.
There’s also the holder factor. They were more willing to move on to Colquitt last year because he’s a veteran who knows how to hold. You don’t want to screw up the exchange for Chris Boswell if you don’t have to so Harvin has to earn this. Colin Holba lost to a player who wasn’t even an incumbent a few years ago, so drafting a specialist doesn’t mean he gets a roster spot.
While Harvin may have similar consistency concerns like Berry, the difference is that with his big leg, he can sometimes mitigate a mis-hit simply through power. And one gets the sense that the Steelers are looking to extend their range in the punting game. Berry does not have a big leg, nor substantial hangtime, where the rookie can upgrade.
Harvin also has some tricks up his sleeve. He’s capable of throwing the ball, for example, and I think if Danny Smith can get his hands on a punter who’s able to line up for the gadget play, Mike Tomlin is going to have a hard time being allowed to cut him.
Berry has had six years to solidify himself as a strong and stable punter. He’s never risen above the average due to his inconsistencies. They already tried to move on from him last year. Now it’s time they cut ties for good.