It’s hard to find a fault in the way the Pittsburgh Steelers have started their 2020 season.
The team has five straight victories to start the year, overcoming an unexpected early-season bye and change in scheduled and have won with a dominant defense and an offense that has made excellent use of new weapons Chase Claypool and Eric Ebron while also showing a balance that it has lacked in recent years.
You really have to nit-pick to find something the Steelers have performed poorly at, but there is one area, and head coach Mike Tomlin said the team is going to do whatever it takes to fix it.
Through six weeks, the Steelers as a team are dead last in the NFL in net punting average at 37.1 yards per kick.
Of course, net punting is a team statistic that includes the talents of both punter Dustin Colquitt and the coverage team, but on a gross punting basis, Colquitt hasn’t done much better. His 43 yards per punt gross average is tied for 29th in the NFL.
Furthermore, he has not been the victim of a team too often punting from close to the opposite end zone. He’s had eight kicks that were either downed inside the 20-yard line or went for a touchback, which is the ninth fewest in the NFL.
Suffice to say, Colquitt has not been particularly good in his first season with the Steelers compared to the rest of the league and he’s not performed up to his usual level established throughout his career.
His career gross average is 44.8 yards per kick, and 43 represents his lowest season total since he was a rookie in 2005.
It’s also a step down from Jordan Berry’s performance in 2019. Berry averaged 45.5 yard per kick last season and has a 44.2 career average. I acknowledge that our punting is not up to snuff and that we have to get better in that area, and we are willing to do whatever is required in an effort to do so.
Berry was cut at the end of training camp and replaced by Boswell, a move that does not appear to be working out as the Steelers planned. The first step to fixing any problem is identifying it, and head coach Mike Tomlin did that on Tuesday.
“I acknowledge that our punting is not up to snuff and that we have to get better in that area, and we are willing to do whatever is required in an effort to do so,” Tomlin said on Tuesday, while declining to address his opinion of the specific reasons for the issues. But suffice to say, if Tomlin thought the numbers were a product of where the Steelers punting from or shoddy coverage, he likely would have said so.
The team also hosted Berry for a visit as a free agent this week — a sure sign they’re not happy. They have also kept rookie free agent Corliss Waitman on their practice squad all season.
“We’ve got a number of guys in the building who are new to us on special teams this year,” special teams coordinator Danny Smith said. “We’ll continue to work with the guys we have available to us to see if they can help us moving forward.”
It all adds up to it appearing that Colquitt does not have a particularly long leash, despite the team’s success so far.