With OTAs in full swing, virtually all eyes have been glued to our first two draft picks. This is completely understandable considering the tattered state of our offensive line over the last few years.© 2012 Steelers Universe
Perhaps it's time to focus on another player who, though not as high profile, may play just as much of a prominent role for the team when the season begins.
Drew Butler, the UDFA prospect from the University of Georgia was picked up to provide competition for current Steelers punter Jeremy Kapinos. On the surface it may seem easy enough to write him off as undrafted camp fodder, but that may be far from the case.
First of all we need to remember that Kapinos was merely a plug-in solution to an early season injury to Daniel Sepulveda. Say what you will about the oft-hurt Sepulveda, but the facts are that when Kapinos took over the punting duties, the Steelers punting average dropped from being ranked 13th in the league to 20th, and their net punting average dropped from 17th to 24th.
Enter Drew Butler.
Immediately, we are looking at a player who had a net average last year of 44.2 yards. For those of us keeping score, that would have made him the #1-ranked punter in the NFL last year.
Butler also has the ability to competently direct his punts. Remarkably during his college career he placed 60 out of 168 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. That was over one-third of his total punts. In comparison, Kapinos ranked 32nd in the same category.
Butler can also put enough air under the ball to force return specialists into fair catches. During his senior year, Drew Butler managed to do this 21 times, compared to Kapinos who managed just 8 fair catches. That total gave the Steelers a ranking of 29th in the league in that department.
What do all these stats mean? Well, the NFL is a league predicated on the importance of field position. Having a punter who ranks in the top 10 in the critical punting categories, would obviously provide a boost to Pittsburgh's special teams and ultimately could affect the outcome of close games.
Keep an eye on Butler, his OTA performance may very well translate into wins when the season starts.