The Pittsburgh Steelers have long had a history of inconsistancy when it came to the punter’s position. Many teams have that problem, so the Steelers aren’t alone. That said, it still doesn’t make the problem a good one. The Steelers thought they had their guy in 2007 when a young punter from Baylor University named Daniel Sepulveda came into the picture.
The Steelers couldn’t be more wrong. Ever since the beginning of the “Sepulveda days” until right now, the Steelers have had eight different punters. The Steelers, since the release of Sepulveda after the 2011-2012 season, have had a different punter every single year.
The Steelers might have a new punter again next year. It’s not uncommon for NFL teams to bring another punter, and even another kicker, to their training camps. Luckily, the Steelers have had fair consistency, aside from the beginning of the season this year, when it has come to kickers, with only three since 2002 in Jeff Reed, Shaun Suisham and current kicker Chris Boswell.
The Steelers will be set on either Suisham or Boswell as their kicker, but what about punter? Should the Steelers get a new punter? Should they maybe bring back and old one? Take a look on how we rank the Steelers eight punters since 2007.
No. 8: Jeremy Kapinos (2010 & 2011 seasons)
Jeremy Kapinos is a name that Steelers fans would certainly like to forget. After injuries to Sepulveda, Kapinos took the reins on the punting duties. His punts were mediocre, if even that. Kapinos punted 48 times for 2,106 yards. His longest punt was only a mere 59 yards and he averaged 43.8 yards per punt. Kapinos never had a punt blocked, and never played another snap after his tenure with the Steelers ended after the 2012 training camp.
No. 7: Zoltan Mesko (Beginning of 2013 season)
Zoltan Mesko was a solid punter for the New England Patriots, but for the Steelers the same can’t be said. That’s why the Steelers released him about a month and a half after he was signed. Mesko punted for the Steelers 34 times and put 1,445 yard to his record as a Steeler. His longest punt was 65 yards and he averaged 42.5 yard per punt. Mesko also had one his punts blocked. After his time with the Steelers, he played in a single game for the Cincinnati Bengals. He hasn’t had a job in the NFL since. The Steelers won’t plan on bringing the 29-year-old back for a second shot.
No. 6: Mat McBriar (End of 2013 season; replaced Mesko)
The Steelers selected Mat McBriar to be the replacement for Mesko, probably due to the fact that he was once a teammate of Suisham’s before, during their Dallas Cowboy days. McBriar didn’t fair much better than Mesko, punting the ball 40 times for 1,652 yards. McBriar’s averages per punt were lesser than Mesko’s, as he only averaged 41.3 yards per punt.
McBriar also had one of his punts blocked, but his longest punt was a strong 70 yards. However, his consistency was lacking. McBriar won’t be returning to the Steelers, or football in general, as he announced his retirement last summer after 11 NFL seasons.
No. 5: Mitch Berger (2008 season)
Who? That’s exactly what my reaction was, as well. Mitch Berger came onto the Steelers roster in 2008 when Sepulveda went down with his first NFL injury. Berger punted the ball 66 times for 2,728 yards. He had none of his punts blocked, but his longest was only 61 yards. His number of yards per punts were exactly the same as McBriar’s with 41.3.
Berger was actually on the Steelers squad for Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals. Berger, however, was released after that season. He played for the Denver Broncos in 2009, but was released after that season. The 43-year-old owner of nightclubs in Vancouver will not be going to the NFL anytime soon.
No. 4: Jordan Berry (2015 season)
Fitting to put Jordan Berry at slot number four, since that’s also his number with the organization. Berry was the most recent punter for the Steelers, but will he remain another year? If I had to guess, I’d say no. Berry punted the ball 59 times this year and averaged 42.6 yards per punt. Berry did have a strong 79-yard punt this year against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6.
For a guy who made his NFL debut this year, Berry didn’t do horribly, but will probably be plagued by his performance against the Denver Broncos in the NFL Divisional Playoff round. Berry punted the ball six times and only averaged 29.3 yards per punt. Statistically, and looking back on the two 30- and 20-yard punts, that certainly wasn’t Berry’s best moment. However, he did have some good games this year, so it will be interesting to see who the Steelers will bring back, or select from a new crop of free agent punters, to compete with Berry.
No. 3: Daniel Sepulveda (2007-2011 seasons)
Daniel Sepulveda might be a name some Steelers fans remember, while others might not. Sepulveda was around when Jeff Reed was around and was there when Shaun Suisham put on the black and gold for the first time. However, injuries have plagued the former punter, who was a big product of Art Briles out of Baylor University.
Sepulveda certainly has better statistics when it comes to overall punting yards than the others, but that’s because he had a longer tenure with the Steelers. Even with the countless injuries, including the tear of his ACL, Sepulveda punted 221 times for 9,057 yards. However, not as impressive was that his longest punt was 66 yards and he only averaged 43.7 yards per punt. However, out of all of his 221 punts, only one was blocked.
Sepulveda certainly wouldn’t be an option to bring back. His countless injuries have plagued him from playing football, as he hasn’t played since his release from the team. Ever since the Sepulveda days, the Steelers have had a different punter every single year. So certainly, one thing the Steelers miss about Sepulveda is his consistency. At least when he wasn’t injured, that is.
No. 2: Brad Wing (2014 season)
Brad Wing, formerly known as the bad boy punter out of LSU, came to the Steelers last year. He could have been the Steelers punter this year, but was traded to the New York Giants as Berry was crowned the victor of their punters battle in training camp.
However, last season for the Steelers, Wing wasn’t horrible. Wing punted the ball 61 times for 2,667 yards. His longest punt was a strong 74 yards and none of his punts were ever blocked. In one season, he averaged the same numbers as Sepulveda when it came to yards per punt, with 43.7. Wing now makes a name for himself in New York, but who knows if he will stay in the Big Apple after this season, as he is now a free agent.
The Steelers shouldn’t overlook trying to bring Wing back to Pittsburgh. If the Steelers find themselves in a situation where Berry or a new punter isn’t performing well, and if Wing doesn’t get signed by New York or another team, bringing him back to Pittsburgh wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
No. 1: Drew Butler (2012 season)
My number one punter is Drew Butler due to his statistics and his success with the Arizona Cardinals right now. Butler, whose father is Kevin Butler, a former kicker for the Chicago Bears, came to Pittsburgh as a rookie out of the University of Georgia, where he was teammates with the Minnesota Vikings kicker, Blair Walsh.
At Pittsburgh, Butler had some impressive numbers for a punter. His yards per punt number, which was 43.8, was higher than any of the other kickers on this list, but still could have been a bit better. Butler punted the ball 77 times for 3,374, which is also higher than any of the other kickers, besides Sepulveda. Butler also had the longest punt out of any of the other punters on this list with a booming 79 yard punt.
Although his numbers in Arizona aren’t the best, he’s learning from one of the best. Amos Jones, who used to coach for the Steelers until arriving in Arizona in 2013. It seemed when Butler left, Jones went too and they both went to the desert. The Steelers could try to snag Butler back if they wanted to, as he is a free agent this season. However, Arizona could also try to bring him back. The Steelers, if they have the option, should try to make a grab at Butler to replace Berry.
If none of the options work, the NFL draft is coming up. After the Draft, since the Steelers need to use their picks on other positions, there are plenty of undrafted rookies that want a shot at a training camp opportunity. Riley Dixon (Syracuse), Alex Kinal (Wake Forest), Jamie Keehn (LSU), Drew Kaser (Texas A&M), Nick O’Toole (West Virginia), Will Monday (Duke) and A.J. Hughes (Virginia Tech) are all strong options for head coach Mike Tomlin and special teams coordinator Danny Smith to look at for a punters battle.