The Pittsburgh Steelers will have several difficult decisions to make by the end of the preseason, in terms of who wins what job, and even who is on the roster. Sometimes a specific job and a roster spot go hand-in-hand, like the specialist positions, and one of the team’s most hotly-contested battles during training camp this year has been at punter.
While incumbent Jordan Berry, having already been cut a year ago, has to be considered on thin ice, the addition of a seventh-round draft pick as his competition for the Summer, according to special teams coordinator Danny Smith, doesn’t throw any added weight into Pressley Harvin III’s column—not that he needs any.
“That don’t affect me. It don’t affect me”, Smith told reporters after today’s practice, regarding Harvin’s status as a draft pick and whether that will give him an edge. “We’re gonna keep the best guy. We’re gonna keep the best guy, and I think it’s the teams that win that do that. We don’t keep guys on a hope and a prayer or a wish. We’re gonna keep the best guy”.
Berry has been the Steelers’ punter since 2015, as he and incumbent Brad Wing competed in training camp. They ultimately decided on Berry when they were offered a seventh-round draft pick in exchange for Wing. Outside of the first five games of last season, after Berry was cut and replaced by veteran Dustin Colquitt, he has been a regular presence.
And he played well during their last preseason game, getting all of the reps, but Harvin, who also got the full-game treatment in the Hall of Fame game, has a strong performance under his belt, as well. Both have competed well in training camp, and it has largely gone as expected: Harvin is the bigger impact, but Berry is more consistent.
But Smith isn’t too worried about the overall state of the position. Telling reporters that Berry is “punting the ball better than he ever has”, he is confident the end result will be an effective punting game. “We’ll make a good decision, and we’re gonna come out with a good punter, because I think we’ve got two NFL punters in this camp”, he said.
Overall, the Steelers’ punting game is typically no worse than the middle of the pack, though Berry’s prior consistency issues have put them in some tough spots. His lack of a big leg—in spite of his protestations—was also perhaps a motivating factor in their drafting of Harvin.
The two still have two more preseason game to work this out. Only one of them will have the job by the end of it, but perhaps the other will land a job elsewhere, even via trade.