Someone forgot to tell the Pittburgh Steelers that Labor Day is for relaxing and for firing up the grill in the backyard. Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin and company were busy releasing the first depth chart of the year and adding a familiar name to do the punting duties. Let’s begin with that move.
The Berry Era is Over
The Australian punter Jordan Berry has kicked his last ball for the Steelers. A short time ago the team signed 15-year veteran Dustin Colquitt to a one-year deal. The recent Super Bowl Champion with Kansas City was cut loose by the Chiefs last week and came in for a visit to the Southside before the weekend.
Colquitt is the son of Craig Colquitt who punted for the Steelers from 1978 through 1984. He would win two Super Bowls with Steelers after being a surprising 3rd round selection in the ’78 Draft. Like his father, Dustin played his college ball at the University of Tennessee. His career average is 44.8 yards per punt and he’s missed just two games in his entire career. He can also handle kickoff duties when necessary.
When you compare the numbers of Berry and Colquitt from last season, Berry’s average was better by two yards and he dropped three more kicks inside the 20 than did Colquitt. However, punts returned against Berry yielded over nine yards per return while Colquitt’s punts gave up less than five per return. Roughly five yards difference is a big deal in the all-important field position battle.
Depth Chart Nuggets
Few are as ‘coy’ with their depth charts as is Mike Tomlin. He likes to keep us and all of his opponents guessing as long as he can. The release of the first 2020 depth chart is no different.
He has Zach Banner listed as the starter at right tackle but after his name it says “OR” Chuks Okorafor. If he were doing this alphabetically by first names then he’s got it backwards. Alphabetically by last names then he’s revealing Banner will start. Neither guy has reportedly taken a strong enough step forward to truly claim the spot and our feeling was that should that happen, Okorafor would get the start. We’ve got a week to find out.
Tomlin did the same thing with his kick returners. He has rookie Anthony McFarland, Jr listed first but then it reads “OR” Ray Ray McCloud. I’m going to assume the more experienced McCloud sees the early share of returns but McFarland is far too much of a threat to leave idle on the sidelines. This will be intriguing.
Also of note… Benny Snell was indeed named the backup to James Conner and McFarland was listed ahead of Jaylen Samuels but I wouldn’t read much into that… Robert Spillane was named the primary backup behind Vince Williams while Marcus Allen “OR” Ulysees Grant was listed behind Devin Bush. I expect that to be entirely situational… Newly signed Sean Davis is listed as the primary backup for both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds… Not surprisingly Diontae Johnson is the team’s punt returner.
One very important thing to be aware of here. NFL head coaches hate having to release their depth charts and Tomlin is no different. As he will say in his pregame presser this week, “don’t pay a lot of attention to the depth chart.”
Regardless, the Steelers still have time to enjoy some BBQ on this busy Labor Day.