We as football fans love to poke fun at the kickers and punters but they really are as vital to the success of a team as just about any other position.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have played musical chairs at the punter position for the last few years but they may have taken a step towards finally solidifying it.
Pittsburgh signed former Chicago Bears’ punter Adam Podlesh today and he will now compete with another free agent signee Brad Wing.
While Podlesh averaged a very pedestrian 40.6 yards per punt last year, it’s a couple of other areas where the Steelers are very intrigued. In 2013, Podlesh punted the ball 68 times but only had 15 of those kicks returned.
That means he gets very good hang time on his kicks which of course limits the number of returns a special teams’ unit will face.
Another 27 of Podlesh’s punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. That’s roughly one of every three punts and more importantly means the opposing offense has 80 or more yards to go for a touchdown. Just as impressive was the fact that Podlesh had just two touchbacks all season.
With a defense in transition, any help they can get is appreciated and having a good, directional punter who gets solid hang time is crucial to keeping the defense out of tough positions.
While there is no guarantee that Podlesh will get the job he is clearly the favorite. Wing was an All-American punter at LSU who comes from good Australian kicking bloodlines. His father tried out with the Lions before returning to his native Australia to play Aussie Rules Football.
Wing twice ran into trouble off the field and was eventually let go by LSU heading into a bowl game but he seems to have put that behind him.
You should see a bigger leg out of Wing than you will Podlesh but can he place it and kick it as high as Podlesh?
Either way, an upgrade at the punter position is in fact an important need to be filled by the Steelers for the 2014 season.
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 weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.