Berry wins Steelers’ punting job; Wing traded to Giants
Both of the Australian punters at Steelers camp earned jobs, but only Jordan Berry will kick in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers traded their incumbent Brad Wing to the New York Giants on Friday for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, ostensibly handing punting duties to Berry.
“Last year (I was) back in Australia for a whole year and not really knowing if I was even going to get a tryout let alone make a team,” Berry said. “It’s a pretty good feeling.”
The trade was the first public domino to fall in the lead-up to the 4 p.m. Saturday deadline when the 75-man roster needs to be trimmed to 53.
On Friday, the Steelers conducted a team run and meetings. The locker room was a little less full, with some lockers cleaned out and some faces missing. The Steelers made no official announcements regarding cuts, but Friday marked the start of the first game week of the regular season.
The Steelers open Thursday at New England. The seven days between games meant a shifting of the weekly regular-season routine — Friday, in this case, acted like a Monday.
“We just got our team run in, and we’ve seen the guys we got,” inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons said.
Timmons did not play the final four preseason games because of turf toe, but he said he would have played Thursday had it been a regular-season game.
“Just taking the necessary precautions,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to (the season).”
Berry can look forward to his first NFL season. He was a four-year punter at Eastern Kentucky after emoving from near Victoria, Australia.
He didn’t grow up far from Wing. The two slugged it out over the six-week camp in a battle that was too close to call. So the Steelers let the Giants make the decision by trading for Wing, who was last in the league last season with a 43.7-yard average.
Wing averaged 48.8 yards during the preseason. Tomlin alternated game halves between Wing and Berry, who was a bit better, averaging 49.8 yards on 19 punts with six landing inside the 20.
“Just (a) bit of the hang time, I feel like I sort of had a bit of an edge on him on that throughout camp,” Berry said. “We both did well, and Brad is a great competitor … a pretty good bloke.”
The Ohio Valley Conference special teams player of the year in 2013, Berry didn’t get an NFL tryout last year. So he headed home with some footballs in his luggage. When they wore out, he bought more online.
“There are some stores (in Australia) that sell them,” Berry said, “but they’re way overpriced. When you’re kicking them and going through 10-12 balls a year, it’s not ideal.”
Berry saved about 10,000 Australian dollars so he could come back to the United States and give his dreams another shot.
They came true Friday morning.
“I first thing I did was went and called my dad,” Berry said. “He’s been behind me from the very start.”
Berry, who also will hold for kicks, becomes the ninth punter the Steelers have used in Tomlin’s nine seasons.