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Steelers News: Will punter Jordan Berry be back with the Steelers in 2019?

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at one free agent who isn’t getting much press currently, but his job is certainly on the line. That would be none other than punter Jordan Berry.

Will he be back? Or are the Steelers preparing to move on?

Let’s get to the news:

Steelers punter Jordan Berry faces free agency for 1st time

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

A proud Australian who grew up a 20-minute drive from the Melbourne, Jordan Berry can hardly believe he’s been in the United States now for a decade.

“Started college (at Eastern Kentucky) 10 years go!” Berry said while an unbelieving smile earlier this month. “That’s pretty nuts, yeah.”

Berry’s offseason trips back to Australia are becoming shorter and less frequent – a function of his growing comfort in the U.S., that his parents are now living in Florida and that he’s established himself as a quality NFL punter.

But will his pro career continue with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

After four seasons with the team, Berry hopes so. But he’s also facing unrestricted free agency for the first time, so nothing is assured.

“Obviously, yeah, I love it here,” Berry said. “This team is great.

“(But) I haven’t really put any thought into (free agency) yet…. I’ll talk to my agent. That’s why I hire those guys; they know that stuff and how it goes on.”

After Mike Tomlin struggled for almost a decade to find a reliable longterm punter, Berry has fulfilled that quest since he beat out incumbent (and fellow Aussie) Brad Wing during the 2015 training camp . He’s the first punter under Tomlin to hold the job for at least two full consecutive seasons.

Berry has averaged a 39.6-yard net average per punt over four seasons, a figure just below the magic number of 40 that he strives for (along with most other NFL punters). He’s landed almost 10 times as many punts inside the 20-yard-line (107) as he’s had touchbacks (11), had only one punt blocked and one returned for a touchdown among the 254 boots he’s had for the Steelers.

This past season wasn’t Berry’s best – Tomlin even publicly acknowledged that he brought in punters to audition for Berry’s job .

“(His 2018 season) started slow, obviously,” Berry said. “I had a few balls that weren’t really up to standard. But once I got going, the hang time got back up there and I was doing really well on that front.

“Directionally, (2018) was sort of average; whereas last year I felt as if I was one of the best (punters in the NFL) in terms of the directional punting. This year, that definitely wasn’t the case. So I made up for that with the hang time.”

Opponents returned just 16 of Berry’s 63 punts – a paltry 25.3 percent rate that was easily the best in the NFL. Just two punters who held a job for more than five games this season allowed fewer returns – and each of them, the RamsJohnny Hekker and the SaintsThomas Morstead – had 20 fewer punts than Berry,

“We didn’t have many returns at all this year – but we did happen to give up a couple big ones, which really hurt us,” Berry said. “So, just got to focus on that.”

(For more, click the link in the headline above...)

Tim Benz: The confounding cases of Steelers’ Morgan Burnett, Penguins’ Derick Brassard

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Let’s focus on a pair of Pittsburgh athletes.

The first player came to Pittsburgh in 2018. His acquisition was widely applauded as a solid move by management.

The player’s arrival filled what had been deemed to be a significant hole for quite some time.

He was going to get a minor role change, yet publicly welcomed the challenge saying the fit seemed like a good one in Pittsburgh.

But since the moment he has arrived here, he has been injured, ineffective and apparently unhappy with his job description ...

... and the other guy is Penguins forward Derick Brassard.

I was actually describing soon-to-be-former Steelers safety Morgan Burnett.

Can you tell the difference, though? I can’t. They are virtually the same player.

I mean, have you ever seen either guy in the same place at the same time? Yeah. Me either. Suspicious, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, neither of these Clark Kents have ever turned into Superman.

Stunningly, on the surface, both seem like pleasant, engaging, media-friendly people. Sadly, other commonalities between the two include:

• Negative draws on the salary cap

• Similar allergies. Burnett to coverage. Brassard to contact

• Both may be out of Pittsburgh in March.

I’m as surprised as anyone that these two haven’t panned out here. I lauded the Brassard trade, and I gave a thumbs-up to the free-agent signing of Burnett. That makes me a resounding 0-2 on this front, as are many other Pittsburgh-area fans and media members.

(For more, click the link in the headline above...)

Pereira: NFL should add eighth official in booth

By: Dale Lolley, DKPittsburghSports

After a pass interference penalty wasn’t called near the end of regulation during the Rams’ 26-23 overtime win in New Orleans in the NFC Championship game that would have given the Saints a first down and likely ended the game, there’s been nationwide outrage.

And there’s been a lot of talk about what the league can do to avoid this kind of embarrassment moving forward.

Former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira had a simple solution while on Fox’s Last Call, on which he and fellow former vice president of officiating Dean Blandino go over the previous weekend’s games.

“You just have to look at this that (it) really directly leads to the outcome of the game and keeps a team out of the Super Bowl,” Pereira said. “Officiating has been a struggle for a while now, the past couple of years especially. I can’t say it’s much worse now, but there’s just so much more exposure. I think something has to be done. There has to be a way to protect against what happened in that game. Do you make replay reviewable in the last two minutes of the game? I think that’s a Band-Aid. I think we’ve got to look at this and see if there’s a better way to correct some of these mistakes, not in replay, but with an eighth official. That’s my current thought. In a booth. He’s part of a crew. He’s able to call down immediately after a play he sees one replay, he’s got all of the recording equipment. He calls down and says, ‘Bill Vinovich, that was pass interference on L.A. It’s the Saints’ ball, first down at the 6. Play on.’ ”

On the play in question, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly hits Saints receiver Tommy Lee Lewis well before the ball ever reaches him. Robey-Coleman even admitted to that being the case after the game. Yet no call was made and the Saints were forced to kick a field goal to take a 23-20 lead. Had the penalty been called, they would have had a first down at the Rams 6 and could have run out the clock before attempting a short game-winning field goal that could have sent them on to the Super Bowl.

Instead, the Rams got an opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime, where they won on a 57-yard field goal.

(For more, click the link in the headline above...)