By Matthew Marczi
Ask any Pittsburgh Steelers fan now and he’ll tell you that the offseason began way too early for their team, which even according to team president Art Rooney II should have been in the playoffs.
If you asked that same fan at the Bye Week for their mock draft, however, they might have already had written up as the Steelers faced a seemingly unthinkable winless September to start the year.
There’s always somebody ready to start talking about the offseason, no matter how early on it is in the process. And in the middle of January, it’s still quite early to start talking about the draft—not that there’s nothing wrong with that. Here’s a pre-free agency, pre-salary cap purging look at the Steelers’ draft needs, position by position.
The Steelers have dealt with musical punters for the last several years, from Daniel Sepulveda to Mitch Berger to Jeremy Kapinos to Drew Butler to Zoltan Mesko to, finally, Mat McBriar. And McBriar definitely shouldn’t consider his job safe, in my estimation. Oh, and he’s also not even under contract. Neither is long snapper Greg Warren, one of the oldest and most veteran members of the team.
Shaun Suisham, on the other hand, could probably feel relatively safe, given that he is the most accurate kicker in team history. He seemingly has a blip or two every year—nearly every kicker does—and his kickoff distance is certainly nothing extraordinary, but typically, when you have a solid kicker, it’s difficult to let go.
Shaun Suisham: As mentioned, Suisham has actually been more accurate in his time in Pittsburgh than any kicker has been while with the organization. He handles the AFC North climate quite well, which is a good selling point in his favor, although his misses the past two seasons one can argue directly resulted in losses.
This year, both missed field goals came in a three-point loss to the Oakland Raiders. Last season, he missed two in a three-point loss and another in a three-point loss. Of course, it’s not quite fair that his misses seem to have had such a large impact in the eventual outcome of those games. He does have one notable flaw though, and that is a pretty finite range. The Steelers are very rarely willing to trot him out for a 50+ yard field goal because—unlike other kickers—he doesn’t have the reputation for it, having made only four out of 13 in his career.
Brad Wing: The Steelers are no stranger, unfortunately, to ‘bad boy’ kickers. Jeff Reed once violently assaulted an inanimate object in a public restroom, after all. Wing comes to the team with a reputation of “off-field transgressions and a self-promoting public persona”. Failed drug tests and an arrest for simple battery are true statements of his past, as is his dismissal from his college team a year ago, which all contributed to his not being drafted, nor finding a team after the draft.
He comes to Pittsburgh now in a vulnerable position knowing that his own past is the thing standing in the way of his future. The Steelers have no meaningful investment in him, and could discard him any time. If he’s able to fly right, he has a chance of sticking around. He supposedly has the talent, averaging 44.8 yards per punt in 2012.
Bryce Davis: Likely the next sacrificial lamb to the altar of Warren, Bryce Davis was originally an undrafted free agent in 2012 that spent time on the Bengals’ practice squad that season before being forced to seek other employment for 2013. Although I’d rather that Warren’s job be legitimately up for grabs, I’m not anticipating that Davis will be dethroning him—assuming Warren is re-signed, which is probably safe.
Draft Strategy: Most would probably be outraged if the Steelers use a draft pick on a special teams player this year, both in principle and in light of the many needs at other positions troubling the team. Truth be told, I would be rather surprised if they do actually use a draft pick on a punter or a kicker.
That doesn’t preclude them from making it a priority in the post-draft rookie free agent market, however. While they already have Wing under contract, I wouldn’t be surprised if they bring another rookie punter, rather than a veteran, to compete with Wing, given their recent luck with veteran punters (including Brian Moorman). It wouldn’t hurt to kick the tires on a kicker that shows some potential to get some distance on his kickoffs and field goals, either. The Baltimore Ravens didn’t have to spend a draft pick to find an All-Pro at the position in Justin Tucker, after all.
Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Quarterback
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Running Back
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Wide Receiver
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Tight End
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Interior OL
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Offensive Tackle
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Defensive End
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Nose Tackle
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Inside Linebacker
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Outside Linebacker
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Cornerback
Steelers Early Offseason Positional Draft Needs – Safety