Butler will have some competition in training camp this year. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
I thought that Drew Butler would win the starting punter job after the Steelers signed him as an undrafted free agent last April, especially since Jeremy Kapinos was set to be his only competition. Kapinos however was hobbled during training camp and during the 2012 preseason due to an injury, so Butler won the punting chores by default when the preseason finished.
With a golden opportunity in hand, Butler did little to prove that he was the right man for the job last fall. In fact, Butler finished near the bottom of every important statistical category among N.F.L. punters in 2012.
The former University of Georgia Bulldog ranked 26th in yards per punt (43.8), 25th in net yards per punt (37.8), and tied for 18th in punts downed inside the 20 yard line (18). Watching Butler was maddening at times, especially since he could send a 65 yard boomer in the first quarter before he shanked a 30 yard one out of bounds later in a game.
Obviously unhappy with Butler’s first audition last fall, Pittsburgh’s brass made a solid move this offseason when they brought in some competition for the 2012 UDFA in the form of veteran free agent Brian Moorman.
A former Pro Bowler (2005 and 2006) in Buffalo, Moorman might be just what the Steelers need to put the pressure on Butler to become more consistent and fight for his job. Although Moorman is long-past his Pro Bowl days (2012: 44.8 AVG, 37.6 NET, 24 IN20), training camp and the preseason, Butler must find a way to keep the veteran at bay if he wishes to handle the punting chores as a member of the Steelers.
Pittsburgh’s new special teams coach Danny Smith has no allegiance to Butler, so the now-second year punter must illustrate that he is “the guy” to Smith during the coming weeks.
While a punter battle is not exactly the most exciting thing to watch or follow, the Steelers must find a way to improve their special teams units which were mistake-prone and putrid in their execution at times last season.
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