Berry wins Steelers punting battle
PITTSBURGH (AP) From flipping burgers to flipping footballs.
Nice work if you can get it.
Jordan Berry locked down the punting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday, beating out incumbent Brad Wing by default after Pittsburgh sent Wing to the New York Giants on Friday for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.
A seemingly tight competition apparently turned into a bit of a blowout in the final days of training camp. Berry punted five times in Thursday night’s preseason finale against Carolina while Wing had just one chance to convince the coaching staff to keep him around. Berry averaged a full yard better than Wing (49.8 to 48-8) and put six of his 19 kicks inside the opponent’s 20.
Wing’s trade robbed one of the major position battles of any drama before rosters are set at 53 on Saturday, though Wing will be given a chance to stick around in New York. The two Australians developed an easy rapport while working side by side over the last six months, with Berry describing Wing as ”a good bloke.”
One that became the latest disposable product in a seemingly unending parade of kickers that have come through Pittsburgh over the last decade. Berry is the ninth punter the Steelers have brought in since 2006 and perhaps the one that took the most unlikely route. He spent four years at Eastern Kentucky but couldn’t find a gig out of college, forcing him to move to back home and work overnights at a fast food restaurant. He lived with his parents and eventually maneuvered into an office job, saving up enough cash to get him back to the U.S. and buy him some time.
If an opportunity didn’t come around over the winter, he was going to give coaching a try. The Steelers gave him an opportunity to compete with Wing and after some initial bumps his marked advantage in hang time gave him a significant edge.
Berry’s first call after finding out he was sticking around went to his father, and he’s already trying to figure out a way for his family to make the long trip from Australia to Pittsburgh for a game. Given the historical instability at the position under coach Mike Tomlin, Berry’s folks might not want to wait too long.
There are worse problems in the world. Berry gets that part. If Pittsburgh’s offense can be as productive as it was a year ago, his job should be pretty easy, or at least as easy as the always tricky conditions at Heinz Field allow.
”There was sort of a bit of crosswinds down there, and I guess it’s not the most ideal conditions for kicking or punting in,” Berry said. ”But I guess I did pretty good, and I look forward to getting down there later in the year to see how it changes up.”
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