The start of the 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp is now less than two weeks away so we will continue to look at the training camp battles that will take place with a look at the battle for the punter job on the 53 man roster. You can comment on this battle below and make sure to vote in the attached poll.
Training Camp Battle Setup: The Steelers punting situation is certainly up in the air as they had into training camp and this year the battle will be between second-year undrafted free agent Drew Butler and long-time veteran Brian Moorman.
Drew Butler – Butler averaged 43.8 yards per punt during his rookie season on a Steelers special teams unit that was far from fantastic as far as coverage went. 26 of Butlers 77 punts were inside the opponents 20-yard-line with 6 of them going for touchbacks. Butler did, however, have a punt blocked last year thanks mostly in part to missed assignments ahead of him.
As far as his hang time went last season, Pro Football Focus has him down for an average of 5.1 seconds which ranks him near the bottom of the league so that is definitely one area where the Georgia product will need to improve this year in training camp and the preseason without losing much of his distance in the process.
As far as his holding ability on kicks goes, Butler seemed to do just fine in 2012. There was a gaff late in the season against the Cincinnati Bengals that led to a crucial missed field goal as Butler was unable to get a good placement down for kicker Shaun Suisham following a poor snap by long snapper Greg Warren. Handling an occasional bad snap is part of the game; however, so Butler shares a tiny bit of blame in that miss.
Brian Moorman – Moorman was signed by the Steelers this offseason to compete against Butler. The veteran has a history with new special teams coach Danny Smith as both were with the Buffalo Bills from 2001-2003.
Moorman, who has been in the league since 2001, averaged 44.8 yards per punt last season on 71 punts with 24 going inside the opponents 20-yard-line. Only 4 of those punts went for touchbacks, and his 5.3 hang time average ranked him in the top third of the league.
Moorman did get off to a slow start with the Bills last season as he only had a net average of 32.7 yards per punt after the first three games. That led to the Bills releasing him, but he was quickly signed by the Dallas Cowboys shortly thereafter.
Prediction: Handicapping punter battles is certainly hard to do, but being as Smith has a history with Moorman, you have to like his chances. Butler now has a full season underneath his belt and knows what the team expects from him moving forward. The Steelers likely want him to win the job, but he must show more consistency in his second season. This is really a coin flip here, but I will predict that Butler holds off the elder Moorman when the smoke clears.