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Old 05-26-2012, 04:56 PM   #1
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Default Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

May 26th, 2012 by DomSteelers

While the Steelers’ Kicking and Punting games were not by any means the “Achilles heels’” of the team in 2011, they were not what you would call “elite” or something to write home about either. Nevertheless, both Kicker Shaun Suisham and Punter Jeremy Kapinos, the duo which held the starting spots at Kicker and Punter when the 2011 season ended, currently have their names etched at the top of the depth chart at their respective positions. I must however ask the following questions in regards to Suisham and Kapinos: Are the Steelers really comfortable with both Suisham and Kapinos entering 2012? Does the franchise have any legitimate competition for the projected starters as the summer rolls along? Will the competition be able to push or overtake the starters? With those questions in mind, today I will be sharing my thoughts and musings on Pittsburgh’s Kicker and Punter situations:

Punter Situation

Before I begin, I must say that liked Daniel Sepulveda as a Punter, and during his tenure in Pittsburgh he did a solid enough job. The unfortunate part about Sepulveda though was the fact that he missed so much time with injuries and the team was forced to call on mid-season signees three times in six years to replace him (I take a cold shower and cry when I think about Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster and their 30 yard shank boots). Because of Sepulveda’s knee injuries, Pittsburgh’s brass made the sensible financial and football move and showed him the door after the 2011 season ended. Now that Sepulveda is gone, his mid-season replacement in the last two seasons, Jeremy Kapinos, appears to have his best chance to win the full-time job.

To his credit, Kapinos chipped in and did an adequate job after Sepulveda went down with his injuries down the stretch in 2010 and 2011. Over 12 regular season games with the Steelers, Kapinos logged 48 Punts for 2106 Yards for a 43.9 Yards Per Punt average. In 2011, Kapinos averaged a career high 45.0 Yards Per Punt and tied his career long with a 59 Yard boot. Still, Kapinos has yet to prove himself over a full season with the club (not his fault because he was called up at mid-season both times, and he did start all 16 games with Green Bay during the 2009 season), and will face a stiff challenge for his job from Rookie UDFA Drew Butler over the coming months.

Butler, whose Father was long-time Chicago Bears Kicker and Bulldog alum Kevin Butler, had himself a fine career at Georgia where he started for three years. Butler’s best season came as a Sophomore when he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009. During that season, Butler logged 56 Punts for 2,691 Yards, and led the nation with a 48.1 Yards Per Punt clip. Over his next two seasons, Butler’s Yards Per Punt statistics sank just a bit (2010: 44.5 (19th) and 2011: 44.2 (18th) as well), but he produced on an efficient basis and established himself as one of the best and most consistent Punters in the nation. Butler did such a fine job for the Bulldogs that he was named to the Georgia’s All-Decade Team for his accomplishments on the field, and was also recognized for his work in the classroom when he earned a National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar Athlete Award.

It should be an interesting competition between Kapinos and Butler because of the fact that Butler was a bit of a shock to go undrafted. I am glad that the Steelers picked up a quality Punter like Butler who has potential, and did not have to use a draft pick to do it. I am at least comfortable with Kapinos shouldering the load, and he has a decent amount of experience. Nevertheless, I would like to see what Butler can do when given his chance. If Butler ends up panning out, it would be a huge steal for the club which was able to add depth in Rounds 5-7 to other positions of need. I really do not mind who steps up and takes the job, I just want the club to find an answer and gain some stability at the Punter position.

Kicker Situation

While I am at least comfortable with Kapinos as the Punter if he indeed wins the job outright, I cannot feel the same way about Shaun Suisham entering this season. Let me first start off by saying that Steelers were a bit spoiled by the consistency of Jeff Reed from the 2007-2009 seasons. During that three-year stretch, there were few, if any, Kickers that were able to produce and produce as well as Skippy did. I for one was able to ignore Reed’s odd behavior towards bathroom towel dispensers and “Doc Brown” hairdo because of his (77 of 87) 88.5% Field Goal percentage, and his ability to hit clutch kicks. Reed for whatever reason tanked bad in 2010, and was cut after hitting only 15 of 22 (68.1%) Field Goals through the first 9 games of the season.

After being almost money when he was signed at midseason for the then-erratic Reed, Suisham did a terrific job. Over 2010′s final 7 weeks, Suisham went 14 of 15 on Field Goal Attempts (93.3%), and nailed 8 of 9 from 40+ Yards away. Then however, the postseason began, and Suisham began to have some consistency issues as he missed two Field Goals in the three Playoff games.

Then during 2011, Suisham’s accuracy remained a tad off, and it really showed on Field Goals from 30+ Yards as well. Suisham went 23 for 31 (74.2%) on his Field Goals during his first full year with the Steelers, and most shockingly went 13 for 21 (61.9%) on Field Goals from 30+ Yards away. To be fair, Suisham’s career Field Goal average is (124 of 156) 79.5%, and in his combined career with the Steelers he has performed at just about that level at a (37 of 46) 80.4% clip. Yet with Suisham’s recent struggles, the team signed Undrafted Rookie Danny Hrapmann from Southern Mississippi to put some heat on him over the coming months.

Hrapmann showed flashes of being a terrific Kicker at Southern Mississippi during his career, and was even named a 1st Team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation in 2010. That season, Hrapmann went 26 of 31 (83.9%) on Field Goals, 55 of 55 on PAT’s, which gave him 133 Points overall. His Points totals ranked him 3rd in the country in Scoring, 3rd in the country in Field Goals, and he made 8 of his 11 Field Goals from 40+ Yards away.

Unfortunately for Hrapmann, his Senior campaign was marred by some inconsistency, and his Draft stock slipped so much that he was not even selected by a team last month. Hrapmann’s Field Goal percentage slipped greatly down to 67.6% (23 of 34) and was a tad off from long distance as he went 7 for 16 on Field Goals from 40+ Yards away. Yet that is not to say that Hrapmann’s 2011 season was terrible. He ranked 3rd in total Field Goals again with 23, ranked tied for 10th overall in total Points with 130, and made 61 of his 62 Extra Points on the year. Hrapmann even played hero in a couple of games last season, as he most notably went 5 for 5 in a 30-29 win over Central Florida, and three of his Kicks were from over 40 Yards (42, 44, 48) as the Eagles triumphed that night.

For a smaller guy (5’9″ 164 lbs.), Hrapmann has a pretty big leg (15 Field Goals of 40+ Yards over the last two seasons), which should help him kick in cold and wintery conditions. The question will be whether or not he is the 2010 version of himself accuracy-wise not the 2011 version of himself accuracy-wise. Thus, Hrapmann will have to be at his best to unseat the veteran Suisham will really have to have a bad Training Camp and Preseason to lose the Kicker job. Like the Punter position, I do not mind who wins the job, I just want the Steelers to find a consistent answer at said spot.

Final Thoughts

So what will end up happening with the Kicker and Punter positions? I believe that Kapinos and Butler will probably battle until the final days of the preseason until a clear victor emerges. I am sure the Steelers are well aware of what Kapinos can do, but it will be intriguing to see if Butler can overtake him for the job and the roster spot. In regards to Suisham and Hrapmann, I hope at least one of them rekindles the consistency which they both possessed in 2010. Either guy I am fine with having, just as long as one can prove they can do the job on a regular basis and kick in the muck come late in the season.

Heinz Field’s turf is a complete and total slop-fest come the end of November, and steady Special Teams play will be needed on all fronts. Probably the place it will be needed most is in the Kicking Game, and especially when the Steelers head towards the open end of the stadium. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for the next few months, and hope that some long-term answers emerge. The Steelers can ill-afford to have shoddy Special Teams play, and it would be nice if two of these four players stepped up their games in 2012 and beyond.

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Old 05-26-2012, 05:06 PM   #2
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

Its always a plus to have an NFL pedigree!..... Butler
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." - Vince Lombardi
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Old 05-26-2012, 07:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

Either way we will be fine at Punter, very few punters actually make a difference in the game. Some can really help like Shane Lechler, some can hinder you like Mitch Berger, but most punters make decent kicks consistently. As for the kicker, we need Hrapmann to succeed. It's not just consistency, we pass on FG's that could add points because Suisham has poor accuracy at 40+ and can barely even get it there at 50. When we are on the opponents 35 and we are stuck between going for 4th and 15 or punting, it would help to be able to put 3 points on the board instead, or at least be able to take a confident shot at it.
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:22 PM   #4
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

It will be very hard for Butler to unseat Kapinos. Kapinos has that 45 yard avg and has kicked in a super bowl and cold weather playoff games without an error. I suppose it would have to do with hang time if Butler could overtake him.

The real question is will Hrapman get enough shots in the preseason to make an incredible impression? If he misses just one he's done.
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Old 05-27-2012, 12:59 PM   #5
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

I like our punter situation, but S.S. scares the piss out of me from 25+

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Old 05-29-2012, 05:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

Ditto that on S.S.
I hope steelers score so much that it won't matter on coming down to field goals. :)
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Old 05-30-2012, 01:11 AM   #7
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

After watching the Steelers hire a real Offensive Coordinator, upgrading our OL from a weakness to a strength, and generally scoring so well in the draft, it almost seems too greedy to hope for an upgrade at kicker.

On the other hand, the Steelers really owe us fans for making us put up with all those years of Arians. So we're even. Lets go get a kicker!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 05-30-2012, 09:07 AM   #8
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

Originally Posted by Bayz101 View Post
I like our punter situation, but S.S. scares the piss out of me from 25+

If i was going to nail it down, i'd say anything over, lets say 37, 38, i'm 100% zero confident.
I hope they put a little more work into finding a great kicker. Look how many games are decided by FG's....some guys make 3, 4 a game and its the difference between a W and a loss.
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Old 06-01-2012, 12:57 AM   #9
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

looks like the Ravens may not be all that thrilled with their kicker either:

AFC North Notes: Ravens sign a kicker

May 31, 2012
Bob Labriola - Steelers Digest

ITEM: Cundiff will have competition for job

The Baltimore Ravens had a chance to send last season’s AFC Championship Game into overtime, but when Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal attempt it was the New England Patriots who advanced to Super Bowl XLVI.

The team has signed undrafted rookie Justin Tucker on May 29, and while the former Texas Longhorns placekicker is a bit of a long shot to unseat Cundiff, he will bring a strong leg to the competition.

Tucker was something of a star at the Ravens rookie minicamp. He hit a 55-yard field goal to end one practice and then was perfect in four attempts inside the 50-yard line on another day. When asked about Tucker at that time, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh said, “He gets really good lift on the ball, very accurate. He had a very good camp.”

Tucker was 40-for-48 on his field goal attempts in college.

“I look forward to it, coming in and competing against a guy that’s had success in the league,” Tucker told Ravens.com. “It’ll be a challenge, but it will be fun.”

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Old 06-28-2012, 04:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Are The Steelers Set At Kicker And Punter?

Butler Likes His Chances Of Beating Out Kapinos For The Steelers Punting Job

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 by Dave Bryan

Undrafted free agent punter Drew Butler likes his chances of beating out Jeremy Kapinos in training camp and he said as much in an interview last week on 680 The Fan.

Butler of course is the son of former Chicago Bears kicker Kevin Butler, who kicked for 13 seasons in the NFL. Drew, like his dad, played at the University of Georgia, where he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009.

Butler was asked last week if he was pleased to land with the Steelers. "Without a doubt. I mean the Pittsburgh Steelers are/is the best organization in the National Football League. There's no doubt about it," said Butler. The city of Pittsburgh is fantastic. The fans are obsessive over the Steelers and that's the way it should be. I am very pleased and honored to be part of the organization."

Butler continued on about the off-season thus far for him. "Organized team activities went well. The mandatory mini camp went well two weeks ago and now I'm back in Duluth (Georgia) preparing for training camp," said Butler. "So it's been a huge honor. Its been a great learning curve the past month and a half, but it's something that expected to happen and I think I gained a lot of knowledge and I'm going to go into training camp knowing what to expect to some degree. And I'm just going to keep my head down, keep working hard and give my best to make sure I achieve my goals."

Butler was asked if he thought that he has a legitimate chance to make the team this year. "I think without a doubt. They had a punter there the past couple of years, his name was Daniel Sepulveda, who won the Ray Guy Award twice and he ran into some injury issues and they didn't resign him in free agency," said Butler. "So the guy that finished the season last year is still there and it's him and I. I think that it's definitely a good opportunity for me to start or else I wouldn't have gone there in the first place. So I'm thrilled with the opportunity. I know that it's going to be up to me and that's the way I like it."

The other guy that Butler refers to is of course Kapinos, who finished with a 45 yard average on 34 punts last season after taking over for the injured Sepulveda. Butler had a 45.2 yard average on 168 punts during his college career with 58 of them over 50 yards. Like Kapinos, Butler also is able to hold on placekicks.

This battle figures to be wide open in training camp and Butler does have youth on his side. If it is close, the nod will likely go to Butler.

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