When it was announced on Tuesday that the Steelers signed punter Adam Podlesh to a one-year contract, the first thing that came to mind was, "So, is he going to compete with what's his name from last year?"
"What's his name," of course, is Mat McBriar, the guy who punted the last nine weeks of the 2013 regular season, and the answer to the thought in my mind is "No," because McBriar isn't currently on Pittsburgh's roster (or anyone else's).
Instead of McBriar, Podlesh will compete with someone named Brad Wing to become the Steelers' next punter. But no matter who winds up winning the job, my guess is neither will have much to do with the team's Super Bowl chances.
I know this because Mitch Berger owns a ring, and someone named Paul Ernster may also have a Super Bowl XLIII ring, even though he was so bad in three games during the 2008 regular season, the Steelers had to release him and re-sign Berger who they released in November in-order to re-sign Ernster who was initially cut in training camp in-favor of Berger.
Any of that make sense?
The reason both of those guys alternated between punting "below the line" for the eventual Super Bowl XLIII champions was because Daniel Sepulveda, Mr. Fourth Round Draft Pick (he may have also gone by the name "The Steelers Punter is so Hot!"), injured his knee prior to the '08 campaign and didn't play a single down.
For the 2008 season, Berger and Ernster combined for a gross average of 39.8 yards per punt, or 5.6 yards less than former Steeler Harry Newsome averaged in 1988 while a member of the infamous 5-11 team.
In-fact, the average yards per punt for the Steelers eight Super Bowl teams was 40.5, while Josh Miller, maybe the best punter to play in Pittsburgh (even better than the aforementioned Newsome), averaged 42.9 yards per punt during his eight seasons with the team. Unfortunately, Miller arrived one season after Super Bowl XXX (Rohn Stark played for the Steelers in that game after averaging 40.1 yards per punt during the 1995 regular season) and left two years before Super Bowl XL because Bill Cowher reportedly didn't like him very much.
Instead, someone named Chris Gardocki was brought into the fold, averaged 41.8 yards per punt in 2005, and now owns a Super Bowl ring.
Fortunately for Miller, he got his Super Bowl ring while playing for the Super Bowl XXXIX champion Patriots, just one season after leaving Pittsburgh.
Surely, the bulk of the reason for average Steelers punters owning Super Bowl rings (or at least AFC Championship earnings) has to do with guys like Berger, Stark, Gardocki, and, oh yes, Jeremy Kapinos, who punted in Super Bowl XLV thanks to another injury to Sepulveda late in the 2010 season, and not anything to do with those awesome Super 70s punters, right?
Sadly, one of those punters was named Bobby Walden, and the other one was named Craig Colquitt. The two combined to average a shade under 40 yards per punt during four Super Bowl seasons (Walden played on the Super Bowl IX and X teams, and Colquitt played on the XIII and XIV teams).
In-fact, Walden was the guy who was so shaky during Super Bowl X, Chuck Noll decided to run the ball on fourth and nine late in the fourth quarter, with the Cowboys only trailing by four points, because he was afraid Walden would either drop the punt (he did that earlier in the game) or have one blocked (he nearly had two blocked earlier in the game).
So, what's my point? Am I saying the Podlesh signing is meaningless? No, because, much like dentists, punters are a necessary part of society, even if none of us actually like seeing them (at least when they're ours), and, if nothing else, you should have a competent one.
Historically (and perhaps statistically) speaking, punters don't seem to make much of a difference. If you have a good team, you can get to a Super Bowl with Berger/Ernster/Berger. If you have a bad team, Harry Newsome says it doesn't matter, anyway.
Only three quarterbacks have ever led the Steelers to the Super Bowl, while eight punters can brag that they've done the same. (Although 39 random people could make the same claim, because who's going to bother to look up Rohn Stark's wikipedia page? And even if someone does, there's no picture.)
Time for Greg Warren, Pittsburgh's long-time long-snapper, to develop some chemistry with Podlesh, or Wing, or maybe McBriar.......give it a week, you'll see.