On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have inked unrestricted free agent punter Jordan Berry, 30, to a one-year contract. Terms of the agreement have not yet been released.
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The Steelers Tried to Replace Jordan Berry Last Season
Notably, the Steelers attempted to move on from Berry in 2020, which is why he appeared in just 11 games. Scheduled to earn a salary of $1.8 million in the last year of his contract, the Steelers elected to release him in favor of Dustin Colquitt (son of former Steelers punter Craig Colquitt, who won two Super Bowls with the team in the late 1970s), this after also holding a tryout for former CFL kicker Richie Leone.
But at 38-years-old, Colquitt did not fare well and the Steelers ended up re-signing Berry in late October after Colquitt, a 16-year-veteran, posted a 36-yard net average in five games, second-worst in the NFL.
Berry went on to punt for the Steelers for the remainder of the season, offering up 57 punts for 2,609 yards, with an average distance of 45.8 yards and a net average of 40.5 yards. Berry also had 23 punts downed inside the 20-yard line as well as three touchbacks. His services were also utilized three times in the AFC Wild Card game versus Cleveland.
All told, Berry has punted 385 times for the black and gold (2015-2020) and has a career average of 44.4 yards and a net average of 39.9 yards. In his five-plus seasons he has landed 154 punts inside the 20-yard line with just 18 touchbacks.
In 2019 Berry punted 74 times for a 45.5 average, with a net average of 40.9 yards, setting a single season franchise record for highest net punting average.
He was originally signed by the Steelers in 2015 as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Kentucky.
Berry Faces Competition from Corliss Waitman
Meanwhile, the Steelers already have a second punter signed to the offseason roster, and Jordan Berry will have to hold off the strong-legged prospect—Corliss Waitman, who is five years younger—to hold onto his job.
Waitman (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) spent all of last season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, having initially been signed as an undrafted rookie free agent on April 28, 2020.
During his four year career at South Alabama Waitman punted 158 times for an average of 42.7 yards. He subsequently transferred to Mississippi State but was denied another year of eligibility by the NCAA and sat out the 2019 season.
In a one-on-one interview earlier this month with Steelers Takeaways, Waitman indicated that he has been training in Alabama with his kicking coach. He also noted that he learned a lot last season watching Berry, not to mention fellow specialists like placekicker Chris Boswell and long snapper Kameron Canaday.
As for what it will take for him to earn the punting job in 2021, Waitman indicated that he will have to be more consistent.
“[Berry] talked about consistency before a game last year and that stayed with me,” said Waitman during the above-referenced interview. “He told me consistency is what gets you in the league and keeps you here. He told me I [can] be an NFL punter. I haven’t forgotten that.”
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