A week after his job security was questioned by Steelers, Jordan Berry bounces back
If Jordan Berry was shaken by the public admonishment from his head coach and the Pittsburgh Steelers working out potential replacements last week, his performance Monday didn’t show it.
Berry had a nice bounceback after a poor outing (31.6-yard average net, multiple punts struck badly) the prior week in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Not one of his five punts during Monday’s win at Tampa Bay was returned, his net average hit his benchmark – and that doesn’t even account that what would have been the best of the game was called back by penalty.
Berry averaged 45.6 yards per punt and had two pin the Buccaneers inside the 20 – another was downed at the 1 but was called back because of Darrius Heyward-Bey penalties. The net for the game was 41.6, better than the 40.0 Tomlin makes his punters strive for.
“It was a good way to bounce back,” Berry said Wednesday. “Definitely still room for improvement to get to where I am capable of, where my past performance has been. But definitely good to sort of get back on track.”
Last week, coach Mike Tomlin called out Berry during his weekly news conference: “I’m not comfortable with results I’ve seen thus far. It has got to be better.”
Worse, the Steelers kicked the proverbial tires on two free-agent punters they’d brought in.
Neither was signed, and Berry kept his job – one he’s held for a longer continuous span than any other punter since Mike Tomlin became coach in 2007. Once Berry competes Sunday night against Baltimore, he will tie Daniel Sepulveda as having punted the most games under Tomlin (Sepulveda twice had season-ending injuries).
Were Tomlin’s public words and the working out of alternatives done intentionally, to motivate Berry? Did they work?
Berry won’t go that far. But he’s not mentally weak enough to have let them bring him down.
“It’s the NFL; you don’t get into this industry unless you are willing to expect that,” Berry said. “You don’t get a job unless you have seen other people go through it. So you sort of expect it to happen at some stage if you have a bad run. And you’ve just got to come back and play well.”
And for more than just one game, if Tomlin is to be believed. Asked if Monday’s performance left him satisfied with Berry as his punter, Tomlin said: “Keep watching. I like some of the things that happened (Monday). We have to build that day-by-day.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.