Steelers Make Final Decision on Highly Competitive Punter Battle

Jordan Berry

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Jordan Berry of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on before a game against the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field on December 15, 2019.

One of the most-watched battles of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp has been the competition between incumbent punter Jordan Berry and rookie seventh-round pick Pressley Harvin III (Georgia Tech). Some longtime Steelers observers—like Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette—believe that Berry had the better training camp and preseason.

But according to Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are releasing the 30-year-old veteran and moving forward with the much younger, less expensive rookie.

From a punting perspective, Berry put up a strong fight, averaging 43.9 yards per punt in the preseason versus 44.7 for Harvin, the latter of whom had a spectacular NFL debut in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys.

But the Steelers also had to figure the holding job into the equation. Placekicker Chris Boswell has long been comfortable with Berry, who has been with the Steelers for most of the past six seasons. But Christian Kuntz—who has reportedly won the team’s long snapping job—has worked mostly with Harvin since the rookie was drafted in early May.

Salary Cap Implications of Berry vs. Harvin

Finally, money and long-term potential had to be figured into the equation. Berry’s best years as a punter/holder are likely behind him, while the Steelers have the 22-year-old Harvin under contract at a very reasonable cost for the next four seasons.

The one-year contract that Berry signed in March called for him to be paid a salary of $990,000 with a cap number of $950,000. Per, releasing him throws $100,000 in dead money on Pittsburgh’s 2021 salary cap while saving $850,000 in cash.

As for Harvin-who is listed as being six feet tall and 255 pounds—he will earn a salary of $660,000 this year and count $680,183 against the cap. If he remains with the Steelers through the end of his rookie deal his future salaries will be $825,000 (2022), $940,000 (2023) and $1,055,000 (2024).

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Almost Certainly Not the End for Berry

Based on how he performed this summer, it seems highly likely that Jordan Berry will catch on with another NFL team. If not immediately, then sometime after the regular season gets underway.

Keep in mind that the Steelers attempted to move on from Berry at this time last year, releasing him and replacing him with Dustin Colquitt (son of former Steelers punter Craig Colquitt, who won two Super Bowls with the team in the 1970s). But the 38-year-old Colquitt stumbled badly and the Steelers ended up bringing back Berry in October. He went on to punt 57 times for 2,609 yards over the course of 11 games, finishing with an average distance of 45.8 yards and a net average of 40.5 yards.

Assuming he never plays for Pittsburgh again, Berry will have finished his Steelers career having appeared in 91 games, with 385 total punts for 17,104 yards and a 44.4 yards per kick average. His longest punt was 79 yards and he has had just one kicked blocked, that coming in 2016.

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