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With the Steelers, don’t forget the Special Teams

The Steelers have got their guy.

No, I’m not talking about Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, or Patrick Queen. I’m talking about punter Cameron Johnston.

Johnston was signed to a 3 year, $9 million dollar contract. He’s coming off a year where he averaged 47.7 yards per punt, with a net of 43.7, had 45.5% of punts land inside the 20-yard line, and had just 3 touchbacks on the season, which is a career low for him.

Signing a punter isn’t the flashiest, sexiest or biggest signing a team could have, but for the Steelers it could be one of the better moves they made in the offseason. With the punting inconsistencies Steelers fans have experienced with Pressley Harvin, it will hopefully be a nice change for us fans to have a punter that has averaged nearly 4 more yards per punt, hasn’t been nearly as and up and down as Harvin, and to have a punter who can truly flip the field for the team. You know, not consistently giving us fans less heart burn when it may be 4th down and having Johnston trot on the field.

Johnston is the kind of punter that if the offense has a drive that stalls, you can count on him more times than not to set the defense up with a good punt, and minimal return. Over the last couple seasons he’s been consistently ranked in the top 10 in “inside the 20” punts and top 10 in lowest touchback rates. Now, one issue he does have is hang time, where he finished last season with a 4.28 second hang time, making that good for 20th. Even with the low hang time, which probably has some to do with his rugby style background, he’s an extremely accurate punter, having no issue putting the ball where he wants. He appears to be a fine holder, which is good because for all the issues Harvin had punting he was a great holder for Chris Boswell. Ultimately, the Steelers went out and got something they haven’t had in a while and that’s a punter who will be stable and show consistency, which is something that has been lacking in that department for a few seasons now.

The Steelers also re-signed long snapper Christian Kuntz to a 3-year deal, and All Pro Miles Killebrew to a 2-year contact worth 6.5 million dollars. Kuntz has been consistent at that position and gets a 3-year deal where in the past he’s signed contracts for 1 year. With Calvin Austin III most likely returning punts again, the only question left is kick returner. Godwin Igwebuike is a restricted free agent and could find himself back in Pittsburgh. We all remember the heads up play against Baltimore, but outside of that he wasn’t necessarily exceptional. He was very consistent, didn’t have any negative or head scratching plays like some of he predecessors at that position, and was just very sound for the team.

We will have to wait and see what the Steelers ultimately decide to do with kick returner, but as this offseason has played out, fans shouldn’t be too worried about what Omar Khan and Mike Tomlin will do at that position. This offseason has had plenty of splash with a new QB room, a new Inside Linebacker that could be a staple here for the foreseeable future, and a new safety. With all those moves already made, the Steelers should be winning plenty of games again this year. If they are winning that means all 3 phases of the game are clicking and contributing, and when Johnston has that first game that you didn’t yell at your TV for a bad punt, don’t forget the special teams and the moves made this summer the upgrade we made in that area.


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