Often thought of as one of the worst athletes on a football field, the punters of the National Football League today have changed that perception quite a bit. The size of punters has increased dramatically over the years and the very style in which they ply their trade has changed drastically as well.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a battle on their hands for the position this summer as training camp opens on Friday.
In one corner you have second-year punter Drew Butler who was the Steelers regular punter all of last season as a rookie. Butler ranked 26th in the league last year with an average of 43.8 yards per kick. He was tied for 18th in the NFL in punts placed inside the 20 yard line with 26. Opponents returned Butler’s punt for an average of about 10 yards per return which ranked him in the middle of the pack.
In the other corner is veteran Brian Moorman who punted for Buffalo and Dallas last season. His career average is 44.0 yards per punt. Moorman finished last year averaging one full yard more in distance than Butler at 44.8 yards per kick which ranked him 23rd. Moorman also ranked 20th in the NFL in punts inside the twenty with 24 or, just two less than Butler.
The big difference between the two besides age and experience of course is in opponents’ return yards. Butler’s punts resulted in an average return of 10 yards as I pointed out earlier. Moorman’s punts last season were returned for an average of 13.4 yards per return which ranked second and this is a stat you’d rather be at the bottom.
Entering camp, the Steelers feel like Moorman can do a better job of positional/directional punting than Butler can. If that doesn’t sound important to you, then you don’t understand punting and special teams. Being able to punt the ball left or right is vital to limiting great returners from having too much of the field to work with as they bring the ball up field.
Butler struggled at times with this last season but by no means was terrible. It’s just that the every yard counts in the NFL especially with place-kickers routinely banging in field goals from 50+ yards. Field position becomes more crucial than ever even when you’re just talking about a few yards here and there.
I really think this is a toe-to-toe battle, pardon the pun, with both guys having a good shot at grabbing the position. For the kicking geeks like myself who enjoy these types of battles, this should be a good one throughout training camp.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.